Originally, I had no plans to do a food tour on my trip to New York. I chalked it up to having been there so many times previously I wasn’t a “tourist” and as much as I love food tours, I do find them a bit touristy (in a good way though). But one night when I was bored I ended up googling New York food tours and I came across Foods of NY Tours, the original food tour company in New York. And I was sold, literally, the moment I saw their amazing array of tour options.
I use the word “amazing” because I could have instantly signed up for all six of their options. But I had promised D that we would have “authentic” New York-style pizza when we were there. So their Original Greenwich Village tour seemed like it would be the best fit as it traverses a once predominantly Italian immigrant neighborhood and the stops reflect this. But let me say I also would have signed up for their Chelsea Market and Gourmet Chinatown in a New York minute (or second, the stops sound like food heaven).
The tour met in front of a cheese store (one of the stops) right on Bleecker Street which I learned is the culinary heart of the West Village (and also where the bulk of the stops were). There were so many inviting food stores and restaurants I would have loved to have stopped at each and every one. But one of the things I liked the most about the tour is that walking the streets of the West Village, there weren’t hordes of tourists everywhere you looked. Now granted, I was a tourist myself, but sometimes it’s nice to step into a more authentic ambiance when you visit a locale, especially one as tourist heavy as New York City. As I mentioned before, this time I stayed as far away from Times Square as possible and it was lovely.
There wasn’t as much history on the neighborhood as I’ve sometimes gotten on other food tours. However, key buildings were pointed out throughout the tour and being the history lover that I am, I could definitely imagine the West Village from another time, when the buildings that cost several million dollars to own today were 100 years ago home to half a dozen families living in tiny, crowded, and dismal tenements.
Marie was our tour guide and as she joked to us, she used to live in the West Village when one actually could afford to. She was a very animated guide which ups the enjoyment level for the tour too.
We stopped at a total of six spots, which I’ll detail below per my food tour post custom:
Unfortunately, our first stop was also the most rushed of the tour which was not cool as both D and I burned the roofs of our mouths eating the piping hot pizza slice. But rushed feelings aside, the pizza here was delicious. I’m pretty indifferent when it comes to “pizza shop” pizza (I prefer more restaurant-style). However, this was awesome. It was totally a hole in the wall shop (not really any space to linger or savor your pizza) but I liked it…a lot. And the coolest part was learning that a slice costs the same as a subway ride.
O & Co-Olive Oil Shop
Since we were only gone for the weekend, we did carry on luggage and let me say that the moment I walked into the O & Co shop I immediately regretted it. This was an uber classy olive oil shop that also sold many different articles that all looked like they could have come from a Bon Appetit photo shoot. We were given a brief tutorial on olive oil (learning that most of the “olive oils” sold in stores are actually fakes, more akin to the canola oil family) and then we got to sample bread from Amy’s Bread (a French/American bakery located on Bleecker Street) with two different oils. We also sampled two balsamic vinaigrettes (once again, a fake one that was more vinegary and an authentic one), and then had popcorn that had been coated with an olive oil glaze. They have a website so I will for sure be making a purchase sometime in the future.
We unfortunately didn’t get to go in here ( I couldn’t after the tour due to time constraints), but it seems like a charming Italian market offering housemade sausages, sauces, meats, cheeses and other items. It’s apparently been owned by the same family for decades so it’s as much of a staple as you could ever get. We had one of my foodie favorites here, arancini, a Sicilian rice bowl. I liked it but I guess I had been somewhat spoiled and accostomed to having it with sauce (or gravy as the Italians say).
This wasn’t a food stop but Marie wanted us to see the beautiful interior all the same. The restaurant appeared to be housed in a building from the last century that comprised multiple rooms. We went to the back where there’s a private room you can rent and it was here that we met the owners (Palma is one of them) who were in the midst of putting together beautiful flower arrangements. It felt like one of those neighborhood eateries you wish could be “yours” if you were lucky (and rich) enough to live here. It felt so quintessentially New York.
Pesce Pasta was one of the two sit down stops we had. This was a tiny, old-school trattoria (an Italian-style eatery that’s less formal than a ristorante but fancier than an osteria) and it seriously felt like being back in time. The meatball and accompanying sauce I had here were second to none. It was aromatic in only a way that good food can be.
Rafele Italian Restaurant
This was our second sit down stop and also the farthest away from Bleecker Street although it still wasn’t that far of a walk. Just as arancini is one of my favorites, so is eggplant rollatini; ever since I had it for brunch at Palo onboard the Disney Cruise I’ve been hooked. I was pretty bursting at this point so I didn’t even eat the bread, as I wanted to savor as much of this amazing eggplant dish as possible. At this stop you could also order a glass of wine, beer, soft drink, or cappucino (D got a cappucino, everything was a set price with tip included). Since drinks were an option, this was also our longest stop (and also the “encouraged” rest room stop).
Milk and Cookies Bakery
Have you ever gone someplace and been overcome by the most incredible smell ever? Well, that would be the Milk and Cookies Bakery (apparently the actor David Schwimmer had his birthday party here one year). We were given a just baked cookie but I took this to go as I couldn’t possibly fathom eating a cookie at this point since there were still two stops to go. Although it wasn’t warm anymore, it was still delectable when I ate it hours later.
Murray’s Cheese and Gourmet Foods
At our penultimate stop, we had a sampling of three different cheeses (cow, sheep, and goat), along with apricots and a cheese puff. I wish there had been a more designated space for us here because even going towards the back of the store, we were still somewhat in the way of people doing their shopping. This was also a store I wish I could regularly shop at.
We had one of my favorites here, cannoli, and nothing is more New York than this treat. Unfortunately, this was another stop where Marie had gone ahead to retrieve the goodies so we didn’t get to actually go inside Rocco’s. I loved it all the same.
I did have several critiques of the tour-the much too rushed first stop, considering that I felt too much time had been spent going over food tour basics/polite behavior while on the street. (I was slightly worried that the whole tour would be like this, very factory run-style, but thankfully it wasn’t.) Also, the fact that we didn’t get to go inside two of the stops at all. I just feel this prevented getting a complete picture of the establishment.
All in all, I’m so glad I signed up for a food tour because it was wonderful not only getting introduced to a new New York neighborhood through food but also being able to try six spots I probably would never have on my own. I just hope that one day I can do another of their tours since Foods of New York is truly second to none.
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