I was a day or two in New York already before it hit me: why had I not explored the option of going on a food tour??! I needed to fix this, pronto. I started Googling frantically before I picked on Foods of New York Tours, and within that, The Original Greenwich Village Tours.
What I really appreciated about this tour was its dedication to all things local, to championing small producers and legacy shops, and so much more. It was about the ingredients, it was about the people, it was about everything that makes Greenwich Village the hub that it is.
The description, which you can read on the website, really appealed to me and my group of friends. Speciality food shops and an old Italian neighbourhood? Yes, please! Luckily, I managed to find five spots on a date that worked for us, and booked them immediately.
On the day, we met our tour guide, Joanna, and headed straight on! Our first stop was Joe’s Pizza, which has been around for more than 40 years, although not in that exact location. Cool bit of trivia we also learned: Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker was briefly a delivery boy at this pizza shop.
Here’s a sense of scale of the pizza…
And here’s me eating my slice! It was pretty, pretty darn good.
Our next stop? O & Co Olive Oil Shop. Loved the ethos of this shop where we learned that it deals directly with small producers, who produce high quality oils. This boutique is one of a handful across the USA, and if this New York stop wasn’t one part of a longer trip across the country, I would have probably picked some olive oils up. Next time I’m in the States, I’m keeping space in my luggage for this.
Next stop was right across the road: Faicco’s. From here Joanna got us to taste the arancini. It’s been more than a year, but I think I definitely scarfed down a couple – which should tell you what I thought about it. I must say, the arancini was not greasy at all. Crunchy on the outside, and as soon as we bit into it, we found it creamy and packed with flavour – and just $1 each! The store has been around since 1900, and is now run by its fourth generation of ownership. Eddy Faicco was the one who started it all, and was grooming his children to take over what originally started as just a pork store. Now it sells all sorts of Italian specialities. Well worth a look-in.
Our next stop took us off the streets, where we had eaten all the food we tried so far, and into Palma. Hidden in the back of this venue is a 200-year-old farmhouse, we are told. We walk through the dining room and garden to get to a kitchen, one that you’d probably see in any home. Run by a husband-wife duo, the Italian wife, Palma, brings fresh flowers every morning to arrange throughout the space – which is why we were greeted with a veritable garden in there. The menu and food is all about the ‘farm-to-table’ ethos, and serves Mediterranean-Italian influenced food.
After the seated sojourn, we headed…right back to Faicco’s. Last time, we were standing across the road and eating our arancinis. This time, we were in the shop, exploring the offerings of the store. And of course, trying some food: this time, a salami called soppresatta.
Then we moved on to Rafele Ristorante. The chef, Raffaele Ronca, is from Napoli and used to be the executive chef at Palma, which we visited just a little while before this stop. Trivia: Ronca was a winner on Food Network’s Chopped, and donated all his winnings to charity. We tried the classic eggplant rollatini, which was delicious. But what I wanted to highlight is that we were very lucky because we did the tour during the 15th anniversary of Foods of New York, and in honour of that, the restaurant created a drink called the Big Apple. It contained apple juice, lemon juice and connamon bourbon as the main ingredients, and it was a brilliant afternoon drink – refreshing, light, and heady.
Time for a little sweet something! We crossed the road and headed to Milk and Cookies Bakery, which at the time had 27 different varieties to choose from. We had a chocolate chip cookie, straight outta the oven – warm and gooey.
We were getting fuller by the minute, but there were also plenty of walking opportunities for us. What I loved about this tour was the history that Joanna was sharing about Greenwich Village – we learned more about the stories behind the façades, which celebrities lived where, and we even saw the building which served as the exterior of the apartment where the ‘FRIENDS’ (AKA Phoebe, Ross, Rachel, Monica, Chandler and Joey) lived and/or hung out. I took a lot more notes, but I’d really recommend you try the tour for yourself and hear firsthand about the history behind the streets, the way it’s laid out, property prices, the narrowest house in Manhattan, and so much more.
There was, surprisingly enough, more food to be had! After a rambling walk, we headed back to where we started and popped into Murray’s Cheese Shop and tried cheese puffs and a variety of cheeses (from salty to sweet): The Greek origin manouri, made of goat cheese; the tumbleweed 5 spoke creamery cheddar cheese, and the Ewephoria sheep’s milk gouda. After the tour ended, we walked back in for some among my friends to buy more cheeses. Really some brilliant cheeses in there.
And just one stop left – Rocco’s Pasticceria – where we had the ricotta-filled cannoli. I really liked it but some of my friends found it too sweet for their liking. I’m quite a sweet fiend though, so I can see why I preferred it.
Here’s a pic of me with our lovely guide Joanna at the end of the tour…
I really, really, really enjoyed this food tour. I’ve done a few around the world now (need to update my blog, and will link back!) and this has been one of my top ones. Whenever I go back to New York, I will definitely do one of the company’s other routes.
What I really appreciated about this tour was its dedication to all things local, to championing small producers and legacy shops, and so much more. It was about the ingredients, it was about the people, it was about everything that makes Greenwich Village the hub that it is. Joanna was super in-the-know; she had so many stories to tell, and she told them well. That’s what I love most about food tours – that it isn’t just about food, or a restaurant. It’s about a shared history and culture that emerges through the medium of food, and a good food tour is one that can tell that saga.
This was one of them – go for it!
To book your own tour, head over to the official website.