Tag Archives: Little Italy
Come back every Wednesday for another funny, informative video documenting my inept food adventures. In Locals Know, I explore a new city through the tours of Urban Adventures.
Of all the tours I lead, the one I have been giving more often than the others is the Tenements Tales and Tastes tour for Urban Adventures. It makes sense that this would be the one that people would want to take on their first visit to New York. Everyone can relate.
The tour, just like this city, is the story of the immigrants that came through to make this country what it is today. That includes customs, languages, but also food. And it’s the food that takes the focus on the newest episode of Locals Know. My guide Joe walks us through the Lower East Side from old Dutch New Amsterdam through Chinatown and Little Italy and then we end in Kleindeutschland with a German pretzel and beer.
Alleva Dairy is one of the city’s gems. Among the touristy red sauce joints in Little Italy, the authentic Italian shop has been making fresh mozzarella daily since 1892. The large cheeseballs are as clean, fresh, and buttery as anything you can expect to sink your teeth into. Wrapped around a salty piece of prosciutto, or on a piece of toast with sundired tomatoes, this cheese is absolute perfection. Price: $7.99/pound
|188 Grand Street (at Mulberry Street),
My search for the best cheesecake in New York continues….
Ferrara is one of those places that I have sort of written off as a tourist trap. It’s located in the heart of Manhattan’s Little Italy (which is not even Italian anymore) and always has a line out the door for their cannolis, gelatos, and pastries.
But the truth is Ferrara is a little piece of New York history, dating from 1892 and claiming to be the very first espresso bar in America. No wonder the tourists crowd it every day.
For the third year in a row, I’m going to attempt to eat every single item on Time Out New York’s annual 100 Best Dishes list. In no particular order, here’s my take on their Top 100. Let the gluttony continue…
There was a dish that I used to eat on a regular basis during college in Pittsburgh. It was the Shan Hin Lay Pork at Spice Island Tea House and would most certainly have made my Top 100 Dish of the year list if I had been keeping one back then. It was a stew of slowly simmered pork and potatoes in a sweet brown sauce. It was like the best pot roast ever but with even more tender meat flavor since it was comprised of pork.
I found the dish at Village Mingala, a Burmese restaurant in the East Village a few years back, but that venue is now sadly closed. I still demand a trip to Spice Island each time I’m back in the ‘burgh (it’s never as good as I remember), but I’d like to get a taste a little closer to home. And so based on the description of the Beef Rendang at Nyonya, I was hoping to re-live my college days.
Once again Time Out New York released their Top 100 Dishes of the year and once again, I’m going to eat my way through every one. And no price point or subway delay will stop me. In no particular order, here’s my take on their Top 100.
Cheese and bread is a perfect combination. We’ve seen this in many forms: grilled cheese, pizza, bagels and cream cheese. Carbs and fat are the basic pleasures of life, so I had no qualms about trying the provolone bread at the classic Little Italy bakery Parisi.
The only obstacles I faced were their hours. They closed anywhere between 3 and 4 and the first two times I arrived, they had sold out of the cheesy loaf. Third time was the charm and I was pleased to find they had two loaves left when I arrived just before 3 one Tuesday afternoon. I picked the one with more visible cheesy bits (thanks to Time Out’s suggestion) and saved it for dinner later that night.
I was tempted to rip into the package as I carried it around with me throughout the city, but I resisted. When I finally did cut into the bread at home, I discovered two large pockets of cheese. It looked as if the provolone had clung to the upper corners of the bread. I was worried the cheese flavor would be exclusive to one area and that I wouldn’t experience it in every bite. Would I have to add some butter or sliced cheese to this thing?
You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension of many pizzerias all claiming to be the original and famous Ray’s. A journey into a wondrous city of entrepreneurs who have no imagination. That’s the red font up ahead and the aroma of cheesy grease – your next stop, the (Pizza) Pie-light Zone!
For those few of you who have never been to New York (or don’t leave their apartments in Staten Island), Ray’s has been the go-to New York slice joint since the late 1970’s. Unless you’re a strict vegan or the owner of the Sbarro company, odds are you’ve ordered a regular slice from at least one of the many Ray’s locations. And the running joke is that they all claim to be the Original Famous Ray’s.
So which of the dozens of locations is the original original Ray’s? How did they manage to sprout up in every neighborhood of NYC? And who is this Ray guy anyway?
I’m not a detective, but I did a little snooping (thank you World Wide Web) and this is one mystery that may never get solved. There is an ongoing debate as to which of the famous Ray’s is actually the original. But the consensus seems to be that the oldest documented Ray’s pizzeria still stands in Little Italy. It was opened by Ralph Cuomo in 1959. And as far as I can gather, no Ray actually exists (or at least not in conjunction with this franchise – apologies to Mr. Charles, Mr. Liotta, and Mr. Bradbury)
But then in the 70’s, along came the Famous Ray’s Pizza in Greenwich Village. And many people say this is the Ray’s that started the whole slice phenomenon of the 70’s, 80’s and today (that sounds like a commercial for a lite FM radio station).
The name was trademarked by three owners of separate Ray’s in the 1990’s and now if anybody opens a pizzeria calling themselves Ray’s, these guys get a cut. So somehow it seems they are now all related. What that means exactly I don’t know, but I’m not about to go to every Ray’s in the city to see if one is better than the other (my stomach hurts just contemplating that idea).
Over the years, I’ve been to many Ray’s on a quick lunch break or after a late night drinking binge. I could never really tell the difference and so I’m going to lump them together as many NY-ers do and give them one overall rating.
The Prince Street store (Ralph Cuomo’s 1959 location) has a completely different feel inside than the other Ray’s. It’s a bit more old-fashioned and rustic and welcoming.
I ordered a plain slice, which the cashier cut from the pie that had been sitting out for God knows how long and threw in the gas oven. This is the way most slice joints work in this city. During my pizza journey, I’ve been spoiled by pies made to order by a chef or a line cook. But that’s not the old school NY way.
Ray’s pizza is dirty, messy, and cheap. It’s everything people come to expect from NY slices. I was actually pleasantly surprised by my first bite. I got lost in the greasiness of the cheese and the butteriness of the crust. But then I came to my senses…
After a few more bites, I felt a little heavy so I let the grease drip down onto my plate. I usually sop up the grease right away with a napkin but figured I needed to take it all in to get a fair assessment.
This pizza is adequate for a NY slice. The ingredients aren’t terribly fresh (that seems to be a new craze) and nothing really stands out here except for the cheese and the grease. There’s no balance of flavors or interest in cheese/tomato proportion. But do many people care? Probably not. Although for some reason, many people care which is the original Ray’s. And just as that mystery will never be solved, why people love this greasy mess will continue to be an enigma.
Is Ray’s pizza the best in NY? It’s good for what many people desire, but it’s not quality pizza and makes NY pizza seem dirty and cheap. There are many places out there that do better NY style pizza without all the calories and heartburn. But if you want that pain and artery clogging and (I reluctantly admit) tastiness, then Ray’s deserves at least a 6 out of 10.