09Nov

Walks of New York Presents: A Walking Tour for the Food Obsessed

walkingtour

Confession: I’m not a foodie. I don’t follow world renowned chefs and I don’t eat at their restaurants. My kids watch cooking shows on the Food Network and from time to time, I watch with them.

But I do know New York City. I’ve been living here a long time, and I feel the city’s pulse. When I was invited on a walking tour, hosted by Walks of New York, celebrating its culture and history from the perspective of one of the country’s top chefs and restaurateurs, Mario Batali, I didn’t hesitate. Batali has his home base in Greenwich Village, and I’d heard about his influence.

The last food tour I went on was in Vietnam and I loved it. I loved learning about a culture and stopping at local vendors to sample what we were talking about. The flavors and tastes were like no other I had ever known.

To be honest, the tour was even better than I imagined it would be. Not only did we learn about Batali and his approach, we learned about the Village and the influence of Italian immigrants. The tour unfolded with courses, starting from arrancini (rice balls), followed by tastings of cheese, salumi, and bruschetta at Otto Enoteca Pizzeria, gnocchi at Lupa Osteria Romana, and dessert back in the heart of the Village.

It’s important to note that this tour was developed in collaboration with Mario Batali and his team. He doesn’t lead it but it has his trademark and influence all over the itinerary.

Our Guide

Simona, our tour guide, hails directly from Rome and was a walking encyclopedia about Batali, Italian food and Greenwich Village. She told interesting stories and was quite food obsessed, being Italian. She gave us tips, tricks, and recommendations and her food obsessiveness and love for her profession really exuded.

simona- mario batali

The first course – Primo

We met in Father Demo Square, once a popular place for trout fishing and the heart of the Italian immigrant neighborhood known as the South Village. The area still attracts Italians and it makes sense that Batali started his New York restaurant empire here once you walk around and start seeing all the Italian establishments.

Our first course was inspirational – arrancini from Faicco’s Deli, rice balls from a recipe brought over from Italy with the shop’s owner in 1896. They literally melted in my mouth. Along the way, we passed by Po and Babbo, two of Batali’s Italian restaurants. Our tour guide explained that Batali hails from Seattle, lived in Spain and went to Italy to learn to cook. He learned from a family in a small village and came back to set up shop in New York City.

arrancini

Visit Faicco’s at 260 Bleeker Street to try the rice balls mentioned above, or try prosciutto, hot cappicola, Genoa salami, house-made soppressata, fresh mozzarella, pickled red peppers, lettuce, and tomato.

 The second course – Secondo

Walking down Bleeker Street, we walked by one Italian eateries after another. At Pagani,a restaurant named for the Pagani brothers who immigrated to the neighborhood in the early 1900s, we had a private tasting before Batali’s restaurant opened for lunch of antipasto (bresaola and speck), olive oil (smooth and spicy) and lemon pasta. In 2013 the Lusardi family, Mauro and Massimo, (known for their successful restaurant, Uva, in the Upper East Side) took over the space and opened Pagani with Mark Barrett as executive chef.  Chef Mark is a former sous chef at Babbo and inspired by Batali’s example, lived and studied culinary arts in Italy for nearly 3 years. He makes not only fresh pasta for the restaurant but also creates dried pastas. The result is mouth-watering.

pagani

Pagani is located at 289 Bleeker Street. Reservations can be made here.

The third course

The portions grew and during our private tasting at Otto, we sampled cheeses, lentils and salad. Simona, our guide spoke on the philosophies of Italian cooking like how to pick a good olive oil, why Italians give Parmigiano-Reggiano to infants and the curious tradition of eating lentils on New Year’s Day.

otto

With nearly full bellies and hearts, we strolled through Washington Square Park and learned about the long history of the park,including the time when it was the upper most part of New York City and later a burial site for some 20,000 people. Batali himself recently donated toward to the restoration of the park’s famous fountain, a testament to his love of this area.

Otto is located at One Firth Avenue.

The fourth course

Lupa Osteria Romana, named for the shewolf who was there at the founding of Rome, was the last restaurant on the itinerary where we learned about the evolution of modern Italian cuisine and sampled their famous Ricotta Gnocchi and focaccia, both insanely delicious.

lupa

Lupa is located at 170 Thompson Street.

Dessert

We topped it off with a dose of gelato at Dolce Gelateria, a traditional Italian ice dessert from Sicily, apparently a favorite of Batali. The gelato is all small batch, artisanal production with the flavors varying according to fresh seasonal products.

gelatto

Dolce Gelateria is located at 33 Barrow Street.

I highly recommend the tour. I think as a result of going on a food obsessed tour, I’m more of a foodie myself. I loved learning more about the Village’s food culture and being a connoisseur of Mario Batali’s creations for a long morning.

About Walks of New York

Walks of New York launched in April 2014 to provide customized small group tours of New York City. Groups are limited to 12 people and include tours for history and architecture buffs, as well as behind-the-scenes access to top food, theater and local culture, Walks of New York also offers several never-been-done and “skip the line” access to venues and institutions as well as memorable hands-on experiences.

Initial NYC tours range from either 2 ½ hours to three hours and include:

  • Highlights of New York Tour: Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Grand Central
  • Meet the Met: Highlights of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • B&H New York Photography Tour: High Line, Meatpacking, Chelsea Market
  • Express Access – Empire State Building Tour and Skyscraper Walk
  • Lower East Side Stories: Traditional New York Culture & Food
  • Broadway Behind the Curtain
  • Mario Batali Culinary Tour (launched August 2014) 

Tours range in price from $35 – $59 for adults. There are also discounted prices for students ages 15-24; seniors 65 and older and children/infants five and under are free.

Reservations can be made at www.walksofnewyork.com.

Disclosure: I was provided with complimentary access to the tour but all opinions are my own. 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Wow, this sounds like such a great idea. You can go around and try all of the different foods without worrying about a car. Plus, when you’re walking around, you’re at least burning off some of the calories you’re eating. Maybe my husband and I should try this out? It seems like it could be so much fun.

  2. OMG! YUMMMMMM
    Awesome! thx for sharing!!

  3. the food looks so good, and the tour sounds wonderful

  4. Sounds lovely! Ever since taking a food tour in Rome I’ve become interested in using food tours to explore new places. I’m surprised the tour didn’t include a stop at Eataly but I guess you stayed in the Village. Now I need to go find something to eat for lunch because reading your post made me hungry!

  5. I would love to do this tour. I love checking out new food and places.

  6. A walking tour in NYC with Mario Batali? This is the epitome of a perfect way to spend a day! I’m putting this on my bucket list. Thank you for sharing your walking tour with us. I’m suddenly famished for anything Italian!

  7. At least you’re walking so all of the good eats don’t go to the bad areas lol I love walking around the city… I’d be as skinny as a stick if I lived there!

  8. Melissa Smith says:

    What an experience! I consider myself a foodie, but not in the sense that I go to the most expensive & posh restaurants. More like the random foodie who discovers the tastiest things in plain sight. Anyways, I would so love to go on one of these tours one day!

  9. Thanks for sharing! I’ve heard about these walking tours but never read a review. After reading your post, I’m intrigued to try the same walking tour! I’m a foodie so I know I would love it!!

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