Tag Archives: New York City

Top 10 Foods to Get at NYC’s San Gennaro Festival

This list of top 10 foods to get at NYC’s San Gennaro Festival in Little Italy is the definitive guide to the traditional foods eaten by Italian Americans.

1. If you try nothing else at the San Gennaro festival, you have to try cannoli.

La Bella Ferrara cannoli

Where to get cannoli:  the legendary Ferrara on Grand Street and Mulberry, La Bella Ferrara on Mulberry, Caffe Palermo on Mulberry, Caffe Roma corner of Mulberry and Broome.

2. Sausage and peppers sandwiches–When Italians go to festivals, this is what they get.

Where to get sausage and peppers–at a stand.

3.  Zeppole are fried dough balls in powdered sugar–a staple of Italian festivals.

Where to get zeppole–at a stand.

4.  Clams

Where to get clams–at a stand, Umberto’s Clam House on Mulberry.

5.  Pizza/calzones

Where to get pizza/calzones–Sal’s on Broome Street (the fried calzone is to die for!), the first pizzeria in America–Lombardi’s on Spring Street.

6.  Torrone–Italian nutty nougat confection

Where to get torrone–at a stand or at Ferrara on Grand.

7.  Italian cookies

Where to get Italian cookies–the legendary Ferrara on Grand, La Bella Ferrara on Mulberry, at a stand.

8.  Gelato

Where to get gelato–Ferrara on Grand, Caffe Roma on Broome, Mo on Mulberry.

9.  Pasta

Where to get pasta–Puglia on Hester, Vincent’s on Hester/Mott, Angelo’s of Mulberry Street, Benito One on Mulberry.

10. Italian pastries

Where to get Italian pastries–the legendary Ferrara on Grand Street and Mulberry, La Bella Ferrara on Mulberry, Caffe Palermo on Mulberry, Caffe Roma corner of Mulberry and Broome.

–Dina Di Maio

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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

Upper West Side Brunch

I recently had brunch at two very nice spots on the Upper West Side, an area of the city where I usually do not spend much time.

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One is Machiavelli on Columbus & 85th.  A gorgeous restaurant with lush decor, the menu is decidedly Italian, including brunch with dishes like polenta with parmesan and truffle oil, nutella crepes, and lemon and ricotta pancakes.  I had the frittata salsiccia with Italian sausage, goat cheese, spinach and tomato.  It was wonderful.

Another spot is Ella Kitchen & Bar on Columbus & 72nd.  Here, the brunch consists of appetizing Latin & Mediterranean variations of classic dishes like baked eggs with Argentine sausage; eggs Benedict with grass-fed skirt steak and sauteed spinach; or avocado toast with edamame, black sesame seed, scallions, radishes, and hard-boiled egg.  I got the classic baked eggs with heavy cream and parmesan.

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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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Nom Wah Tea Parlor

If you want to get a taste of old New York, you have to go to Doyers Street.  It is the cutest little street in Chinatown.  Its curved, narrow shape gives you a good idea of what New York was like back in the day.  It’s also where you can find Nom Wah Tea Parlor.

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The restaurant opened in 1920 with its original location being next door to its current one.  It’s a no-frills place to get dim sum.  On my visit, I got a fried tofu skin roll with mixed vegetables.  This was fried to perfection, crispy and delicious.

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Also got yummy vegetarian dumplings.

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And Shanghai soup dumplings.  They were good but not as good as the gold standard, Joe’s Shanghai.

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Finally, got the rice roll with the fried dough.  This sounded good in theory, but it was a bit too carb-heavy for me.

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15 Things to Do in New York City During Christmas Time

Every season in New York City has its unique flair.  But Christmas is definitely the most exhilarating.  The crisp chill in the air.  The sparkling lights and holiday decor. If you’ve never been, you must visit NYC just once during this time of year.  The things on this list are my favorites–especially the store windows, decor and markets.

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1.  Department store windows–The major department stores have different displays every year and it’s always fun to see.  Check out Macy’s, Saks, Bloomingdale’s, Lord & Taylor, Barney’s, Bergdorf Goodman

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2. Rockefeller Center tree and skating

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Bryant Park skating rink

3.  Bryant Park Christmas market and skating rink

4.  Union Square Christmas market

5.  Columbus Circle Christmas market

6.  Rockettes Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall

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7.  Neapolitan creche at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

8.  Holiday train show at the New York Botanical Garden

9.  Empire State Building lights–LED light show

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10.  Strolling through Midtown to see the decorations like the Cartier building dressed as a package and the tree at the New York Palace hotel

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11.  Origami tree at the American Museum of Natural History

12. Dinner at the much-decorated Rolf’s German restaurant

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13.  Holiday decorations in the Dyker Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn

Olson Manor

Olson Manor

14.  Gingerbread Extravaganza at Le Parker Meridien

15.  Gingerbread Lane at New York Hall of Science

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?