Tag Archives: Little Italy

The New Italy in New York: Zia Esterina Sorbillo Neapolitan Pizza

I probably should’ve tried the pizza at Zia Esterina Sorbillo on Mulberry Street in Manhattan’s Little Italy because that is what they are famous for in Naples.  I have eaten it there and wrote about it in a previous post.

This visit I was alone and wanted something a little lighter–not that this huge calzone was.

I ordered the salame calzone.  I believe they use good ingredients here, and the prices do reflect that.

The calzone was good but a little peppery for my taste, although I do think it’s the Neapolitan style, as my grandma’s calzones had a good amount of black pepper.

If I return, I would definitely get the pizza. It’s Neapolitan-style, which tends toward a “soggy” center that is different from New York-style pizza. When I told my cousin in Italy that Sorbillo opened up in New York, he was very excited and said it is very good pizza. So I think if you are looking to try a pizza that closely resembles the style of pizza in Naples, this is the place to go.

San Gennaro Festival 2016

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New Yorkers are a resilient bunch with much pride in their city.  The bombing in Chelsea on September 17 would not deter them from carrying on.  The bombing occurred only two days into the ten-day San Gennaro Festival in Little Italy, but it didn’t keep the crowds from coming.  That’s good because it’s an important year for the festival–its 90th anniversary.

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September 19 is the feast day of San Gennaro and that is the day organizers celebrated with a mass and procession from the doors of the Most Precious Blood Church on Baxter Street around Canal Street and up through Mulberry Street.

Most Precious Blood Church

Most Precious Blood Church

This year’s grand marshal was Joe Causi.  A Bronx Tale‘s Chazz Palminteri also made an appearance at the festival.  (Tony Danza was the grand marshal of the parade last year, but this year,  I had my second run-in with the actor.  I was shopping in Alleva Dairy, the country’s oldest Italian cheese store, when a man said, “Excuse me, ma’am,” and brushed past me.  It was Tony.  Years ago, I ran into him on Bleecker Street and I asked for a photo to which he rudely said no.)

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Before Mass, I pinned a dollar on the statue of San Gennaro and got a pamphlet about him as well as a pin and prayer card.  Inside the church, there is a large presepio (Nativity scene) from Naples on display.

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Street vendors sell everything from American food to fair festival food like roasted corn,

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to pizza and cannoli

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to Italian tchotchkes

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to traditional Italian foods like these Italian cookies, taralli, mostaccioli and biscotti.

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I ate at Sal’s Pizza on Broome near Mulberry for pizza, sausage and broccoli rape.  At Sal’s, you get a side order of pasta with your entree, the traditional way.

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For dessert, some cassata and coffee at Caffe Palermo.

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Little Italy on Its Way Out

Today, there was an article in the New York Post on Little Italy’s becoming extinct.  Of course, this saddens me.  The first stop in America for both sides of my family was Mulberry Street.  But this brings up a larger issue for me–the gentrification of New York City.  I do not like it.  The great thing about NYC is that it used to be the place to find everything, but as a friend of mine said, who is a published, well-respected economist from the Greatest Generation, NYC has lost its relevancy.  I don’t think it is lost yet, but I do think it is happening.  As New York becomes a homogenized city of the young and wealthy from around the country, it will lose its character.  NYC is a mecca for many–in acting, theater, music, writing, finance, etc, but it’s also a home to the many people who lived there and whose families have lived there for generations.  And it will lose its essence if it becomes generic.  Of course, this is happening in a lot of cities in the United States–not just NYC–but NYC is known for having a certain character–and its tourism depends on it.  If NYC becomes generic, why would anyone pay the incredible hotel bills to visit?

Struffoli, Italian Honey Balls

Even more than bows, my favorite Italian cookies at Christmas are struffoli.  I love these!  My parents and grandparents grew up making these wonderful honey balls.  I’ve written about them before in the Traditional Neapolitan Treats post.

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My grandmas labored over these and bows, kneading dough by hand.  Today, with my trusty KitchenAid mixer, kneading dough is really easy!  So making more batches of these is not tiring.  They are easy to make.  Just roll out the dough, cut it into strips and roll them between your hands.

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Then, cut bite-size pieces.

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When the oil is hot enough in the fryer, fry them until golden and let them drain on paper towels.  Then you make the honey syrup and coat them.

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If you don’t want to make them, I have had them at various bakeries in Little Italy.  Last year, I found delicious dense ones at Buon Italia in Chelsea Market.

Italian Bow Knot Cookies

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Fried Italian bow knot cookies are a staple in our house at Christmas.  We called them bows, and both my Neapolitan grandmas made them.  I have fond memories of making these with my grandma and my mom and have written about these Neapolitan treats before.

Maria Lo Pinto’s recipe for farfallette in her Art of Italian Cooking cookbook is a good recipe for these.  The one pictured below is my grandma’s copy of the cookbook.  I’ve also seen bows called crostoli, guanti or cenci, so a recipe under any of these names would be the same thing.

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7 NYC Candy Stores

When I was a kid, I remember trick-or-treating in my neighborhood and getting large-sized chocolate bars of many of the popular candies.  There was a woman who always gave out popcorn balls and a doctor who gave out apples.  They were not my favorites, but looking back on it, those were more of the memorable Halloween treats.  As I got older, I noticed the candy became smaller, as people opted for smaller-sized treats to give out, probably due to the cost of candy.

I don’t think of specialty candy when I think of Halloween candy, but if you are in the city for Halloween and want to pick up some candy or find yourself a sweet treat to celebrate, here are some candy stores to visit.  Admittedly, I am not a big candy eater, so I don’t frequent candy stores all that often.  My favorite candy store in the city is Sockerbit because I have a like for all things Scandinavian, and I like the tart gummy candies.

Meatpacking District

Sugar Factory–At Sugar Factory, you can get a variety of candy cocktails with flavors of popular candies like Jolly Rancher, Blow Pop, Lemon Heads and Hubba Bubba bubble gum with a real piece of Hubba Bubba.  There are also 60-oz. drinks in ginormous goblets.  Sugar Factory is a restaurant, but it also has a retail candy store.

46 Gansevoort Street (between Washington Street & Greenwich Street), (212) 414-8700, www.sugarfactory.com/new-york-citys-meatpacking-district-0

Midtown East

FAO Schweetz–A candy store inside the famous toy store.  It has all types of candy, including giant gummy bears.

767 5th Avenue, (212) 644-9400, www.fao.com

FAO Schweetz
FAO Schweetz

Little Italy

Papabubble–If you like hard candy, Papabubble is the place for you.  The shop is a modest size and specializes in artisan hard candy in a variety of shapes and flavors.

380 Broome Street (between Mott Street & Mulberry Street), (212) 966-2599, www.papabubbleny.com

Lower East Side

Economy Candy–An old-fashioned candy store with all kinds of candy, including nuts and jelly beans.  They also have novelty gift items like Pez and specialty candies like halvah and Turkish delight.

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108 Rivington Street (between Ludlow Street & Essex Street), (212) 254-1531, www.economycandy.com

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West Village

Sockerbit–A Swedish candy store with all kinds of colorful licorice and gummy candies in sweet, sour and tart varieties.  My favorite of all the candy stores listed.  They also have a limited selection of Scandinavian knickknacks and gourmet food products.

89 Christopher Street (between 7th Avenue South & Bleecker Street), (212) 206-8170, www.sockerbit.com

Swedish sweets

Swedish sweets

The London Candy Co.–For the expat Brit or Britophile, the London Candy Co. has all  your favorite candy from the UK.

267 Bleecker Street (between Cornelia Street & Morton Street), (212) 427-2129, www.thelondoncandycompany.com

Sugar and Plumm–The main location of this candy store is on the Upper West Side, but this outpost is a candy store and bakery.  The UWS location is a bistro with a full menu along with a retail candy store.  The desserts here will satisfy any sweet tooth!

257 Bleecker Street, (212) 388-5757, www.sugarandplumm.com/

Sal’s Pizza

I can’t believe I have never had Sal’s pizza before!  Sal’s has the best slice of New York pizza.  If you’re looking for New York-style pizza, Sal’s on Broome Street in Little Italy is the place to go.

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While the pizza is great, you should also try the fried calzones.  Everywhere you go, calzones are baked.  They shouldn’t be!  We’ve always eaten calzones fried.  Both my grandmas would put mozzarella, ricotta and chunks of ham or salami inside the calzone and then fry it.  These were a special treat.  We make them now too but not as often, and this brought me back to those fun times.

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I recommend the traditional at Sal’s.  It is phenomenal.  They even have one named the San Gennaro with sausage, peppers and onions.