On April 14, 2023, I took a very fun and interesting food tour and cultural walking tour with Ahoy New York that centered on the Chinatown and Little Italy neighborhoods. A single street separates these neighborhoods as they are right next to each other. It’s pretty amazing. What was unique about taking this tour is that I was not alone for the first time on a food tour: my husband was with me! In all my years of doing food tours in different countries, I have always been by myself. While I always have a good time, having him with me made it that much more special.
New York’s Chinatown
Silk Road Cafe and Fay Da Bakery: Jasmine Tea and Barbecue Pork Bun
Our tour met up at the Silk Road Cafe on Mott Street right in the heart of Chinatown where we were treated to a tasting of piping hot jasmine tea and a barbecue pork bun from Fay Da Bakery. The tea was floral and delicious and I have no idea how they get it so hot! It looks so innocent but it was scalding hot.
The barbecue pork bun was really delicious. The warm, spiced pork was fully encapsulated inside this puffy, light bread that was slightly buttery. Such a treat! It was a lovely surprise when you get to the pork inside.
Tasty Dumpling: Chive and Pork Dumplings
What I love about Chinatown tours is that you get to go into places that I probably wouldn’t go to myself, and I get to try things that I would never know was good. Tasty Dumpling doesn’t look like much from the outside, and the inside is very plain and sparse, but this is a truly wonderful spot for a filling snack or dinner! These dumplings were incredible. Each couple was served an order of the fried Chive and Pork Dumplings which was only $2! So delicious! This would definitely make any list of New York cheap eats.
Hay Hay: Roasted Duck
Honey roasted duck is a traditional Ghuangzhou style barbecue, and Hay Hay is the best at this style of duck! The place is extremely small, and yet all 16 of our group crammed into this tiny space. It was a little ridiculous. But the tasting was very good! I enjoyed the sweet roasted duck served over rice very much. Just watch out for all the bones!
Kam Hing Coffee Shop: Flavored Sponge Cake
Our next tasting was a grab & go of flavored sponge cake from Kam Hing. It was a vibrant green and had a vanilla-ish sort of flavor. I couldn’t figure out what it was. I would have guessed pistachio, but the answer is Pandam! So I learned something new. Not sure I’d ever had pandam before.
This was a delightful little treat that everyone enjoyed as we walked around Chinatown some more. In fact, at the end of the tour many people said this tasting was their very favorite.
New York’s Little Italy
Piemonte Ravioli Co.
Crossing over into Little Italy, the landscape changed immediately. All along the sidewalks, there were tables and chairs covered with tablecloths and set with silverware. The sandwich boards outside of shops and restaurants advertised pasta specials. Here we learned that Little Italy has four businesses on one street that are all over 100 years old. Wow!
Our first Italian tasting was at the Piemonte Ravioli Co. for a sampling of gnocchi and homemade sauce. We all crammed inside this tiny shop and received our gnocchi and while it was very tight standing room only, it was nice to be in the air conditioning for a moment. The gnocchi was delicious!
Di Palo’s Fine Foods
Di Palo’s Fine Foods is an Italian specialty grocery store and market very similar to ones that I visited in Rome. What a treat to see all the hams hanging over the counter, and cheese wheels stacked up everywhere. Here, we sampled some delicious olives and two types of imported cheese: a sheep’s milk cheese called Moliterno pecorino and a cow’s milk cheese called Piave.
At Benito One, we enjoyed the best tasting of the tour! I absolutely loved this place. We all got to go in, and sat at a table family style, and enjoyed generous pours of wine, bread, and a dish of warm and gooey eggplant rollatini. It was smothered in melted cheese, and bathed in beautiful red sauce.
Benito One has been around since 1968 and it definitely has that lovely old school feel. It’s a very small trattoria, and everything feels homey and comforting. I had actually saved my cheese from the previous spot, and enjoyed my cheese tasting with my red wine. Mangia!
Tastings like this are always my absolute favorites on food tours. Sitting down in a restaurant and enjoying the vibe of a local place, and being spoiled with plates and real cutlery is such a highlight. I love to share a little meal with the new friends you’ve made on a tour. I do also appreciate the grab & go style of eating stuff huddled on the sidewalk, as they do have their place, but these sit-down tastings are always the most memorable.
Ferrara Bakery & Cafe
For our last tasting, we had a lovely dessert from Ferrara Bakery which is insanely popular in New York. In fact, we could not even go in. There were tons of people gathered outside, waiting in line, in the screaming hot temperatures. Our guide went in and got a box of mini cannolis which we ate outside on the sidewalk.
In conclusion, this was a really great culinary journey led by a very knowledgeable guide. I enjoyed touring and learning about two very distinct ethnic neighborhoods. There were just a couple of ways that this tour was less than ideal and one was that is that it had 16 participants! That is just waaaaayyyyy too many for the format of the tour. Entering these very small eateries was nearly impossible with this huge group. Their website states that the max capacity is 12-13 people, so I have no idea how we ended up with so many.
And lastly, it was about 90 degrees on this day in mid-April! It was a very unusually hot day for early spring and that made it super uncomfortable. This is obviously out of everyone’s control but let’s just say by the end of this thing I was kind of cranky and ready to leave. Too many people and too hot!
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