When booking our trip to New York City, my sister and I knew we wanted to explore a little more of the off-the-beaten-path places this trip. We’ve already seen the touristy spots that New York City is known for, this time we wanted to go where locals go. But where is that? In a city like New York where there are so many wonderful food options, how to choose? I got to thinking about our food tour in Maine and how we went to so many places that we never would’ve been inclined to stop at had it not been for the tour. I began my research and found that NYC offers a plethora of food tours!
After a little more research to see exactly which tour would be the best option for us, it quickly became clear that the Foods Of New York Tours was the tour company to go with. Having been in business for over 20 years, it’s one of the original food tour companies in the city. In fact, the owner developed the food tour concept way back in the 1970s. So, the company has been doing it a while here and knows what it’s doing. Foods Of New York Tours actually has a selection of food tour options to choose from; and an entire group of expert food tour leaders. All the Foods of New York Tours looked very appealing. We were especially torn between the Best of Brooklyn Tour and the Original Greenwich Village Food Tour. We ultimately settled on the Greenwich Village tour because we wanted to see “The Village” and the tour was billed as a food and history tour.
I love to learn about the history of the places I travel to and I’m happy to say that our food tour leader knew all about the history of the area! Marie shared all kinds of stories about the historical figures, poets, and actors that roamed the streets of the Village. In addition, we learned about the specific architecture of the old federal buildings. As a bonus we also saw the Friends building from the 1990s television show; and the building where Taylor Swift once lived — at a reportedly $45,000 per month price tag!
Upon arrival at our meet up spot, Murray’s Cheese Shop, we met our awesome tour guide, Marie. As we waited for the rest of our group to arrive, Marie gave us the lay of the land and told us what to expect. First of all, some of our stops on the tour would be “roadside” stops, where she would run into the establishment and grab our tastings while we all would wait outside. This was due to the sheer size of most of the places on our tour. They’re mostly small little mom-and-pop shops and simply don’t have the room to accommodate a group of 10+ people. This sounded fine to me as I’m a pretty casual person and have no problem eating on the go, like a real New Yorker. We would also have some sit-downs at a couple of the larger places, giving us a chance to put our feet up for a while. We also got the 411 on the tour layout: the first half of the tour would be the “eating” half of the tour and the second part of the tour would be the “digesting” portion of the tour. I was intrigued!
Pro Tip: We did have to show proof of vaccination in order to participate in the tour. Almost all of the places we went to, within the food tour and on our own, required proof of vaccination. Rather than having to mess around with showing our vaccine cards and ID, we opted to download the NY COVID Safe app which allows you to upload your vaccine card and driver’s license. This is a super easy way to show proof when you need to.
Here are my six favorite stops on the Greenwich Village Food Tour.
1. Joe’s Pizza
At Joe’s original location at 7 Carmine Street, we were treated to a ½ slice of basic cheese pizza. The half slice looked like a full slice to me and was anything but basic. It was absolutely the perfect mix of deliciousness and a great introduction to all the fantastic tastings to come. The simpleness of the tomato and cheese combination is outstanding and that crust — oh my. goodness! That crust is exactly the way I like it. Thin and crispy-ish. I learned that the secret to NY pizza is the NY state water used in the dough. The water used by the city of NY comes from way up in the Catskill mountains and the water composite is perfect for creating what we know as the NY style pizza! The mouthwatering pizza at Joe’s has been around since the 1970s when Joe came over from Italy and got cooking. Word has it that Joe is semi-retired now while his family has expanded Joe’s Pizza. There are now several Joe’s Pizza locations throughout the city for your pizza pleasure!
Fabulous fish tacos awaited us at Tacombi, one of our sit-down stops on the tour. Light and oh so fresh, these fish tacos were scrumptious. Located at 255 Bleecker Street, Tacombi is famous for not only its tacos but its freshly made fruit juices. What began in the back of a VW bus in Mexico City is now a well-known and super popular taqueria with multiple locations throughout the city. Known for using the freshest, all organic ingredients, Tacombi prides itself on sharing Mexico’s best culinary traditions and that devotion to its Mexican roots shows through in the fish tacos.
3. Faicco’s Italian Specialty Shop
Faicco’s, located at 260 Bleecker Street was up next on our tour. Known for housemade sausages, meats, cheeses, and more, Faicco’s is the neighborhood Italian shop located in the heart of the West Village. We arrived to find a line out the door. We took this as a good sign that there were lots of things going on inside — including lots of people buying lots of Italian specialties! Here at Faccio’s our special menu included the prosciutto and arancini or rice balls. The arancini is something I never would have tried yet turned out to be one of the highlights of the food tour. Made of a rice mixture that is rolled and formed into a ball, then rolled in bread crumbs and deep fried, these fabulously light Sicilian treats are something not to be missed.
4. Pesce Pasta
Housed in a beautiful federal style row house right next door to Faicco’s at 262 Bleecker Street, Pesce Pasta oozes old world classic Italian charm. Here we were treated to another sit-down stop — this time the quintessential Italian meatball was on the menu. Pesce Pasta is an upscale trattoria complete with white tablecloths and fine wine. We were seated and chatting while the waiters served up gorgeous meatballs for each of us. Covered in Italian gravy and dusted with parmesan, the thing about the meatballs here is how incredibly light they are. I’m no cook for sure, but when I make a meatball it’s super dense and heavy. These meatballs aren’t like that. My sister and I both commented about how light they are. We were impressed with both the lightness and the taste. The small historic Federal building that houses the restaurant is really incredible and offers a warm and cozy atmosphere. Rumor has it that the building may have once been owned by Raymond Burr. Pesce Pasta is an excellent choice for an old school Italian meal when you’re in the Village.
If I had to pick one dish from the tour that really blew me away it would be the eggplant rollatini at Rafele. This is something I truly never would order. Eggplant? I’ll pass! This, however, was not a dish to pass on. The thinly sliced eggplant stuffed with buffalo ricotta is melt in your mouth goodness that you’ll love. Opened in 2012 by natives of Naples, Italy, Rafele focuses on creating authentic Neapolitan cuisine with a New York influence. Everything here is homemade daily and served in the upscale dining room. So many things on the menu are tempting. Next time, I’m trying the Pappardelle Alla Bolognese followed by the classic cheesecake. That’s the thing I absolutely love about food tours. You are exposed to things that you’d never find on your own. It’s an awesome way to get out of your comfort zone and try new things. If you’re like me, you’ll find things that you didn’t necessarily think you’d like — but you do! I’m always down for new experiences and the eggplant rollatini at Rafele fit the bill.
6. Rocco’s Italian Pastry Shop
I confess that I’ve never really liked cannoli. The flavor has always been ho-hum and never did anything for my tastebuds. That is until I tasted the cannoli at Rocco’s. Wow. Rocco’s knows a thing or two about cannoli. And I’ve learned to never, ever buy a pre-filled cannoli. Who knew there was anything else? No wonder the cannoli I’ve tried has never thrilled me. You have to get the good stuff. The fresh stuff. The stuff they serve at Rocco’s. It’s so simple. Italian pastries made fresh, in house, with quality ingredients. While I only tried the cannoli, Rocco’s also makes biscotti, cheesecake, and cookies. I’m betting you’ll love the cannoli here as much as I did. If you’re in New York City and want authentic cannoli and other Italian sweet treats, get yourself to Rocco’s.
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