Tag 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

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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

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

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.

 

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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Song e Napule, a Neapolitan Eatery in New York

Formerly Pizza Mezzaluna, Song e Napule is a little hole-in-the-wall eatery on the North side of Houston Street in Noho serving up cuisine from the city of Napoli, Italy, and the Italian region of Campania.  Classic Neapolitan items on the menu include burrata, calamari, insalata caprese, eggplant parmigiana, meatballs in tomato sauce, and of course, pizza.

During our recent visit, we got grilled calamari to start.  I love squid, and grilled squid is one of my favorites.

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They even serve a Neapolitan dish, paccheri genovese, which is with a veal and onion ragu.  This is a dish my family has made for generations (with a different pasta), and it was interesting to see it on a menu.  However, it was somewhat different from the way we make it and a bit more peppery.  Ours is more oniony.  My dish came with parmesan already sprinkled on it.  I don’t usually like that when I go to a restaurant because I’m not sure what quality of cheese they are using.  However, it was probably OK here.

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My friend got the linguine with tomato sauce, arugula, shaved parmesan and pepper flakes.  It was good, but there was a bit too much arugula on top.

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It was a nice gesture to give us a small panna cotta to share.  I think that’s because it took a long time for our entrees to arrive.

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I Trulli, Puglian Cuisine in New York City

The trend in New York these days is regional Italian food–not the “Northern Italian” cuisine found at so many of the city’s Italian restaurants but the food from Italy’s 20 regions.  I Trulli is the cuisine of Apulia or Puglia, the heel of Italy’s boot.  It is named after the trulli, or circular, white, stone hobbit-like houses found in Alberobello and other cities in Puglia.  While I Trulli has been open in New York for a number of years, this was my first visit.

The menu at I Trulli has some interesting Puglian classics, but the majority of it is characteristic of Southern Italy or Italy in general.  For example, the malloreddus from Sardinia, cavatelli with broccoli rabe (they add almonds); spaghetti with meatballs and tomato; penne with ricotta, tomato and basil; eggplant parmigiana; veal Milanese; chicken parmigiana; broccoli rabe with pepperoncino and more.

It’s hard to see our bread for the evening, but it came with ricotta cheese, the current condiment of choice at Italian restaurants in the city instead of the typical olive oil.

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The focaccia was very good–fresh and with pronounced tomato flavor.

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We got the fritto misto for antipasto.  This pic is not the best–it kind of looks like a huge fried grasshopper–sorry about that.  But it was fried calamari and whitebait, a general term for small fish–which may have been sardines.

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We also got the panzerotti, which are the smaller, Puglian version of calzones.  I got the classic tomato and cheese, and they were very good.

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I thought it would be fun to try a salumi and cheese plate as well although none of these were from Puglia.  I got the mortadella; talleggio, a cow’s milk cheese from Lombardy; and crotonese, a sheep’s milk cheese from Calabria.  All were very good.

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For my entree, I wanted to get the orecchiette because those are characteristic of Puglia, but I didn’t want to eat rabbit ragu.  So I got the cavatelli with broccoli rabe and toasted almonds.  It was good.

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My friend got the malloreddus with saffron, sausage and tomato.  It was good as well.

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