New York City Food Tour #10: The Italians of Manhattan — Little Italy and Beyond

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On Mulberry Street in Manhattan, between Broome and Canal lies the home of all-things-Italian, or at least that once were spanning even larger and longer throughout the area before moving to the suburbs.

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In the late 1800s, at the rise of European immigration in New York City, this area was home to a multitude of Southern Italians from Sicily and Naples. Many of them, not thinking of themselves as Italian, as they don’t speak Italian at the time, find themselves bonding over culinary commonalities.

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For Italians, there was this idea that they would at some point ‘return home’ — also providing the rationale for not fully assimilating into American society. They did return, however, just to bring back their brides.

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Will you come here and able no practice your Italian? —  probably not, unless you cross paths with other Italians tourists.

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They have to advertise their English speaking masses, as English and Vietnamese now, not English and Italian, poignant of the changing demographics.

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The remnants of this rich and delectable history lie of course in this neighborhood, but also beyond where there isn’t as much red, green, and white — but the color is just as much shining through the pastries and sausages on the window.

Long live Italy in New York City.

PLACES OF INTEREST: 

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Pizza @ Lombardi’s

Pizza:

Keste -West Village- This is my personal favorite sit-down pizza place, with a chef/owner who is a Neapolitan pizza “maestro”  — I can certainly taste the “master” in the pizza.

Patsy’s – only ever had it to go, but good god, I think this is my absolute favorite NYC pizza, #ever — great thin crust, mozzarella & basil combo

Johns Brick Oven -West Village- doors down from Keste — it usually has a line

Lombardi’s – Nolita – claims to be the first pizza shop in NYC. Certain Italian charm there that is able to transport you away from Manhattan and straight into a Trattoria in Italy — with a passion for Italian-Americans; Frank Sinatra is king here, along with the imported Birra Moretti, and red and white checkered table cloths. You can totes buy their olive oil for $12.  Note: cash only, but there’s an ATM inside. Don’t come alone because the smallest  pizza has 6 slices; I had to give mine away

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Coffee:

Caffe Reggio – in the Village- claims to have brought over the first cappuccino from Italy, hence having the first cappuccino in NYC — very cool, antique atmosphere in there

La Lanterna – in the Village –  just a few doors down from Cafe Reggio, this place offers a large menu of Italian snacks and food; there’s a winter garden in the back with beautiful lamps (hence the name) that will light up any cold gloomy day

D’Amico Coffee – Brooklyn –

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Bakeries:

La Bella Ferrara – Little Italy -Easter bread, Nutella, Turron

Ferrara -Little Italy- cannoli cream; gelato!

Carlo’s Bakery – Hoboken –  because I’m biased towards New Jersey, but try their Canopus and stuff versus the cakes; I had my sweet 16 cake here (before they were famous and super expensive); I can attest to the better quality of their Italian pastries — i.e. cannoli and biscotti – versus the cakes which actually are the ones that they’re famous for

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Gelato:

Il Laboratorio del Gelato -Lower East Side- SO cool, and futuristic, and my favorite ice cream store in NYC; it really looks like a lab!

M’o Il Gelato  – Little Italy – authentic Italian gelato flavors

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Miscellaneous: 

Eataly  -Flatiron- grandfather of all things Italian-food-store in NYC, from pasta to gelato, breakfast cereals and biscotti — here, you’re in Italy, you’re home.

Mezetto – Lower East Side — Mediterranean/ Italian fusion restaurant

Forlini’s — never been but owned by the family of my college roommate Suzanne — perhaps the last Italian place left in that area of Chinatown

Italian American Museum

San Gennaro Festival 

Lucali — Brooklyn 

Caputo’s Fine Foods — Brooklyn

Espositos and Sons Pork Store — Brooklyn

Christmas Store – It’s always Christmas at this store in Little Italy!

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New York City Food Tour #9: The Japanese of Manhattan — Little Tokyo in the East Village

 

IMG_1172.JPGYou’ve heard of Chinatown – Little Italy – but what about Little Tokyo?

I was unaware of the vibrant presence of – until I went back with my friend, foodie compatriot & she told me that 10 years ago, what is now a hub for tattoo shops and synonymous with college students was mostly known as being (a) Little Tokyo.

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At a second glance, it’s still there! But perhaps in a very Japanese paradox — of simplicity, zen, and minimalism in juxtaposition to vibrant city lights, video games, and lots of sound — Little Tokyo in Manhattan is on the minimalist end of the spectrum, disguised by the omnipresent dynamism that is the East Village.

I went back a few days ago just to really take a look, on the ground level and above to discover some of the remnants of Japan in the East Village. Here they are!

PLACES OF INTEREST: 

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Photo Courtesy of my Friend and Foodie, Elle

Restaurants:

Ramen Takumi – for ramen, of course

Yakitori Taisho – good for yakitori — Japanese skewers

Cocoron — for soba

Fukurou– really feels like Japan. Great ambience. They have avocado tofu!

Village Yokocho – open kitchen – also holds the doors to the Angel Share speakeasy vvv

Masa – Columbus Circle – 3*** Michelin chef; go here for a very very important date, or a super-mega tread to yourself; imported Japanese stones to absorb sound and smell; have a less expensive bar menu outside of the sushi dinner option

Bars/Speakeasies: 

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Angel’s Share — inside Yokocho, (to the left once you go up the stairs) — it has incredibly seasonal and well-tested cocktails, including a vast list of Japanese whiskies

Yopparai – speakeasy – have to press a buzzer and then be ushered into the bar

Kopi  Kopi – on West 3rd street — speakeasy ramen bar behind an Indonesian coffee bar

Miscellaneous: 

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Pearl River Mart – Soho- for Japanese tea and other commodities

Muji – Soho, Times Square – for Japanese stationery, house wear, and some apparel — love their humidifiers! (Sometimes, I go there just for that and to sit on their beanies)

Jupioca — JUICES + SMOOTHIES near school w/ tapioca

Sunrise Mart – for all-things Japanese food and beyond

Nolita Mart – have good donuts + Japanese-style coffee

Japan Day in Central Park soon!

Cha-an – Teahouse and Japanese desire place

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New York Foodie Tour 2: Asian Flushing via the Iconic 7 Train

P9293539.JPGYes, this is NYC (I know the traffic light gives it away ;))

According to the latest census, New York City had more immigrants in 2 neighborhoods than in all cities of Pennsylvania. With the gentrification of both Brooklyn and Manhattan, Queens is to thank for this statistic. So, thank you, Queens!

 

This is embodied on the 7 train, where once it goes underground, writers are known to call it the ‘orient express.’

In Queens, ethnic solidarity becomes a logical strategy to social mobility. So what may seem like a lack of assimilation to all things Americana, is actually a stronghold of values and culture, facilitating assimilation.   

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Rice cookers by the tons at an Asian food mart

A sense of nationalism is rewritten when people come to the U.S. — Chinese and Koreans communities, which are historically not on friendly terms congregate as one in Queens due to even the slightest cultural similarities.

A New York Times Article describes the 7 Train: “Rather, it is the signs, window displays, performances, restaurants, street foods, faces and, when they are revealed, newcomers’ stories that make for engaging visits. This is the Lower East Side of my immigrant grandparents, updated, magnified, translated into Hindi, Cantonese, Italian, Thai, Spanish, Korean and many other languages. On these streets the perpetual struggle between clinging to the old country and embracing the new is often visible. In a Mexican party store, the best-selling pinata is a Pokemon.”

Clearly, it’s not just on paper that Queens is the most diverse county in the entire United States. Queens is Jewish. Queens is Mexican. Queens is Thai. Queens is… what isn’t it?

The best part about this imminent diversity is that you can eat it.

“The history of the world is that when people are exposed to different cultures, they adopt and adapt as their own whatever appeals to them…Here, the process happens more intensely.” One of her favorite examples is a sign in an Indian restaurant on Thanksgiving advertising tandoori turkey”

The newspapers talked of the communities lining the streets in the 1800s, separate, but equal in their differences: ‘the Chinese were casual about smoking, eating, and walking in the middle of operas’ // ‘the French smelled of garlic, the Germans, of sauerkraut and beer; the English, of roast beef and ale; the Americas, of corn cakes and pork and beans; and the Chinese, of opium, cigars, and dried fish’

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And it’s not just about the sights and tastes, but also the smells. The 7 train gives you a unique perspective into this diversity via an intercultural olfactory tour.

These are the stories of the 7 train, representative of the “great narrative of the immigrant experience in New York City, and America.”

P9293516.JPGFruit at a Flushing Market

Another storyteller writes: “Returning to Manhattan on the train, I’m lucky to hit the right time of day, when the setting sun bounces off the tracks and casts a glow, a reminder that the No. 7 train is not only the spine of Queens but its soul.”

To that end: our tour begins at the very end of the 7 train on Main Street in Flushing.

Enjoy!

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Take the #7 train from Grand Central to Main Street Flushing

1.    Hong Kong Supermarket 37-11 Main St Flushing

2.    Han ah Reum 141-40 Northern Blvd

3.    Yi Mei Bakery Corp 135-38 Roosevelt Avenue

4.    Shun An Tong Helath Corp 135-24 Roosevelt Avenue

5.    Ten Ren Tea & Ginseng Co Inc 135-18 Roosevelt Avenue

6.    Good Luck Market 135-08 Roosevelt Avenue

7. Kam Sam Food Products 41-79 Main St

8. A & C Supermarket 41-41 Kissena Blvd

9. Joe’s Shanghai Restaurant 13621 37th Avenue — great dumplings!

10. Mini Mall — reminiscent of malls I had been to in Tokyo

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