Category Archives: New York

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

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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.

Georgian Food in NYC at Old Tbilisi Garden

One thing is sure at Old Tbilisi Garden on Bleecker Street in NYC’s Greenwich Village, you won’t leave hungry. OK, I knew going here that I was going to get the cheesy bread thing I’ve seen posted everywhere. Not schooled in Georgian cuisine, I wasn’t sure what it was, but my waiter educated me on how to eat it. The most popular variation is the adjaruli khachapuri, a boat-shaped bread filled with sulguni cheese and topped with an egg and butter. I wasn’t familiar with sulguni cheese, but it is a stringy cheese made from cow and/or buffalo milk. What you do is break the egg and mix it together with the cheese. Then, you break off bits of the bread to dip in the cheesy mixture and enjoy! This is a meal in itself!  The bread dough here was very good, reminiscent of my grandma’s delicious calzone dough. It is the perfect example to show that something so simple as bread, or dough, can be amazing.

I didn’t want my meal to consist of only carbs and fat, so I also got a Georgian salad, which was a pretty basic salad with a large enough portion for a few people.

For protein, I got the bazhe chicken appetizer in which chicken pieces are topped with a walnut sauce sprinkled with pomegranate seeds.  This dish is served cold, and the sauce had a curry-like flavor to me.

Old Tbilisi Garden is a popular spot with a bustling business. It’s best to make a reservation, as I had been turned away on a prior occasion. This time, I didn’t have one but luckily, there was a table available on a busy weeknight.

Old Ragu Spaghetti Sauce Ad on Building in Tribeca

I don’t think it’s widely known that Ragu pasta sauce company was started by Italian immigrants. Assunta and Giovanni Cantisano immigrated from Potenza, Italy, to Rochester, NY, and began canning tomatoes for sauce. They started their company in 1937. At one time, the Cantisanos’s factory employed over 300 people. In the 1950s, Ralph Cantisano, the Cantisanos’s son, added the gondola to Ragu’s label. In 1969, they sold the name Ragu to Chesebrough-Pond’s. (Unilever owned Ragu for a long time, but Mizkan Group, a Japanese food manufacturer, bought Ragu and Bertolli in 2014 for $2.5 billion.) After the sale, the Cantisanos made pasta sauce under other names, including Francesco Rinaldi, which they purchased in 1981. An employee’s family bought their company in 2002, renaming it LiDestri Foods, and is a successful sauce maker today.

I read on Forgotten New York that there was an old Ragu spaghetti sauce sign painted on a building in Tribeca on 6th Avenue between White and Walker Streets. So I had to stop by and photograph it myself.