Category Archives: New York

Dina’s 10 Favorite Things About Winter in NYC

I think each season in New York City has something special to celebrate.  I would say winter is my least favorite season for obvious reasons–it can be very cold, especially when you are walking around.  Many times I’ve worn two pairs of socks and gloves, a scarf, a hat with a scarf and a hat over it.  And no one likes when the puddles at the corner look more like swimming pools and there’s no way to cross the street except to wade through them.  But such is life in a New York winter.  Despite these nuisances, there are many reasons to visit New York in the winter.  Here’s my top ten.

  1. There aren’t as many tourists in January.  Snowstorms can mess up travel plans, so it’s not the best time to travel.  But if there is ever a time in New York where it is not as crowded, it’s this month.
  2. New York City Restaurant Week occurs in January, and it’s a great time to try out a restaurant you’ve been wanting to try.  I would just say to keep in mind that because prices are cheaper, the menus are not as exciting as they normally would be.  I would also say to book early at the popular ones.
  3. Hot drinks.  I love to get hot chocolate from Grom, who makes the thickest, most decadent hot chocolate.  My all-time favorite café to get warm drinks is La Lanterna in the Village.  They have the most extensive menu of spiked coffees you will ever see. 
  4. Valentine’s Day and chocolates.  NYC has a plethora of delectable chocolate.  From Jacques Torres to Royce to Kee’s and Stick With Me, there’s something for everyone’s taste.  And it is fun to taste them all! Check out my Dina’s Guide to NYC Chocolate Shops for more great chocolate in NYC!chocolate bon bons, chocolates, Stick With Me, bon bons
  5. Lenten foods–OK, Lent isn’t for everyone, but even if you are not Catholic, you can still partake in the delicious goodies that can be found this time of year like hot cross buns and the Italian chocolate pudding made with pig’s blood, sanguinaccio. It’s also a time to abstain from meat on Fridays, so I get to make all my favorite Lenten dishes like eggs with sauce.
  6. Chinese New Year parade in Chinatown.  A very fun event that is packed, but it is possible to get a good view.  Follow the parade with soup dumplings at Joe’s Shanghai.  Spend the day in Chinatown shopping and visit the Museum of Chinese in America

    Joe’s Shanghai soup dumplings

  7. Purim–Purim is a Jewish holiday that commemorates Queen Esther outsmarting King Haman who was planning to kill the Jews. Like Halloween, it’s a day for costumes and celebration. I like this holiday for its delicious cookie, hamentaschen, or Haman’s hat. You can find these all around the city, but my favorite are at Moishe’s.
  8. Japan Week–For a week in March, Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central Terminal becomes an expo of Japanese culture and food. I like to follow this festival with a visit to Minamoto Kitchoan for some Japanese sweets. (This location has moved since I wrote that blog post. It’s now on Madison Ave. between 52nd & 53rd.)

    Kitchoan goodies

  9. St. Patrick’s Day parade–The one day everyone is Irish, including an Italian girl like me!  I love the parade and the after-party at local Irish pubs.  Also corned beef, cabbage, and soda bread. And let’s not forget the elusive Shamrock shake from McDonald’s.

    a festive take on the New York black & white

  10. St. Joseph’s Day–This holiday on March 19 is celebrated by Italians in honor of St. Joseph, the husband of the Blessed Mother. Traditionally, we make zeppole, the fried dough balls you get at street fairs. But we also have zeppole with custard and sfinci/sfingi. You can find these during the season at any of the Italian bakeries in the city, such as Rocco’s, Veniero’s and Ferrara or out in the boroughs.

    Veniero’s zeppole (l) and sfinge

Advertisements

Dina’s Best of 2017

As 2017 ends, it’s a time to reflect on all the delicious meals and treats I had this year.  I had some firsts this year that have become favorites:  pupusas,

pasteis de nata (Portuguese egg custard tarts),

pasteis de nata

adjaruli khachapuri (a Georgian boat-shaped bread filled with sulguni cheese and topped with an egg and butter)

and hot pot. 

hot pot at Good Harvest

It was a year of great food with the exception of two disappointing meals, one at one of those cheesy (pun intended) fondue restaurants that served mediocre cheese and another at the much-acclaimed Chef & the Farmer in Kinston, North Carolina.  I had high hopes for Chef & the Farmer, especially since I lived in southeastern North Carolina for a number of years and know its farming history, but it turned out to be up there with my Dovetail experience a few years back as one of the worst restaurant meals I’ve ever had.  Regardless, I ate well this year, especially on my New Jersey pizza tour. 

pizza

I declared Star Tavern in Orange, NJ, and Brooklyn’s Coal-Burning Brick-Oven Pizza in Hackensack, NJ, as the best overall pizza in New Jersey with Papa’s Tomato Pies in Robbinsville, NJ, having the most traditional and flavorful crust. 

ice cream

I did a best ice cream in New Jersey tour too.  My favorite ice cream was from 

  1. Denville Dairy in Denville, NJ–the creamiest soft-serve ice cream.
  2. Magnifico’s in East Brunswick, NJ–best cherry-dipped cone.
  3. Cookman Creamery in Asbury Park, NJ–delicious vegan options.

I discovered Calandra’s Bakery and returned to my childhood with delicious pepperoni bread as well as many other great pastries.


There was a lot more, but these stand out as the most memorable of the year.

Dina’s 10 Favorite Things About Fall in NYC

Hope you enjoyed my summer of New Jersey, but now that it’s almost fall, it’s time to go back to the city.  I love every season in New York City.  Each season has something unique about it.  These are the things I love about fall/autumn in New York City.

  1. Everyone’s back from summer vacation, including celebrities.  I think this is one of the best times of year for celebrity sightings.
  2. The lecture circuit is open again with interesting talks at many different venues.  (Yes, I am a nerd.)
  3. San Gennaro Festival in September–I love the ten-day festival in Little Italy and try to go as many times as I can. I like the Mass, procession, and of course, the food.
  4. New York state apples at the Union Square Greenmarket.
  5. Brooklyn Book Festival–A great place for literary-types like me to get our fix. So many great independent and small press publishers. I always find something interesting here.
  6. Mooncakes for Mid-Autumn Festival–I enjoy going to Chinatown to get mooncakes at the local bakeries.
  7. Columbus Day Parade–I have marched in the parade before.  It is a great way to celebrate my Italian culture and share it with the world.
  8. Village Halloween parade–This is an event not to be missed. I have marched in the parade many times.  It is a lot of fun to see the creative costumes and have a crazy night out in the Village.
  9. Leaves changing color at Central Park.
  10. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade–OK, you have to do this parade at least once. Known for its giant balloons, the parade is a must-see, especially if you know someone who works along the parade route, like I did, and can watch it from the comfort (and warmth) of inside.

me marching in the Village Halloween parade

Central Park in fall

Brooklyn Book Festival

–Dina Di Maio

New Jersey Pizza Tour, Fifth Stop: Brooklyn’s Coal-Burning Brick-Oven Pizza, Hackensack

Brooklyn’s Coal-Burning Brick-Oven Pizza is a mouthful to say, but I think they want you to know how their pizza is cooked.  The owner, John Grimaldi, is in the Grimaldi family related to Patsy Lancieri, New York City pizza royalty. Patsy had also taught his nephew Patsy Grimaldi who opened Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn, and Patsy Grimaldi taught John.

Full disclosure: Coal-fired pizza is my favorite. I love the whole milk mozzarella and the char on the crust.  I was always a big fan of Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn and Hoboken.  So I thought that I would like this pizza best in all of New Jersey.

We ordered a plain cheese and tomato pie.  Here, they serve you your first slice, so that is why the pie is already eaten in the pic.

pizza

I loved the flavor of the fresh mozzarella and basil. There was a hint of oregano. The sauce was mild, not overpowering, which I like. The crust had a nice char to it and wasn’t thin like the other Jersey pies we had tried.

The menu also has some other Italian items like antipasto and pasta dishes and dessert. We opted for the yummy tortoni.

Brooklyn’s Coal-Burning Brick-Oven Pizza is a nice experience. They have a parking lot and good-size dining room. I admit I found it by chance en route to B&W Bakery for crumb cake.  When I saw “coal-burning,” I had to stop, so the name, while long, works.

Myers of Keswick: British Groceries in the Village

Myers of Keswick is a grocery store in the West Village that specializes in foods from the UK. This month, it was honored by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation as its Business of the Month. (For those of you not familiar with the GVSHP, it is a wonderful nonprofit organization that tirelessly works to preserve the historic buildings and character of the Village. In the past, I was a member and volunteered for the organization.)  Not too long ago, I paid my own visit to the store and found it full of tempting treasures like Jammie Dodgers and custard creams.

They serve traditional foods like steak and kidney pie, shepherd’s pie,

and Scotch egg.


I find it fun to sample the different products, especially the chocolates and cookies, of which there are many yummy varieties.

Delicious Pizza & the Best Broccoli Rabe at Denino’s NYC

Denino’s Pizzeria & Tavern is the Greenwich Village outpost of a popular Staten Island pizzeria.  The Denino family came to New York City from Sicily in 1887. The family opened a tavern in 1937 and started serving pizza in 1951.  I visited their Village location.

I got a pizza with half cheese and half arugula and sausage.

I’m hard to please when it comes to pizza, so when I say a pizza is delicious, it really is!  Denino’s is delicious. For thin crust fans, this crust is crispy with enough chew to it so it’s not too crispy. It has a nice flavor, as does the sauce and cheese. Hard to find a perfect combo of the three, but Denino’s pulls it off.

In addition to pizza, we got a side order of broccoli rabe.  It was chopped, which was a nice touch and made it easier to eat.  It was also cooked and seasoned to perfection. In fact, this is the best broccoli rabe that I have eaten in a restaurant. It was so good, we got two orders!

 

NYC Cheesecake: Rocco’s vs. Veniero’s

Back in October 2013 in Dina’s Guide to NYC Italian Bakeries on my blog, I declared that Pasticceria Rocco on Bleecker Street in the West Village had the best New York-style cheesecake in the city. Four years later, do they still? I decided to compare theirs to Veniero’s for a West Village/East Village cheesecake challenge.

On a recent trip to Rocco’s, I got a slice as well as some taralli for the road. I love the creaminess of this cheesecake. In my book, it has the perfect consistency that I look for in cheesecake. In addition, it has the right amount of sweetness, which is not too much.

For the first time, I tried Veniero’s cheesecake. Veniero’s is located on E. 11th Street in the East Village. A nice creamy texture and good flavor, not too sweet. A serious contender, but for me, Rocco’s has a little something extra that makes it keep top spot on my list.

Of course, you can do your own cheesecake taste test and see which old world Italian bakery makes the best cheesecake to you.