Two words: Food and Tour
When I see those two words together, I can’t help but salivate at the thought of eating and learning about fresh, local delicacies in some of the best destinations.
When I go travelling, food is a huge part of my cultural experience and it also allows me to use all of my senses in the best kind of way. That’s why when I was invited by Walks of New York to join their Official Mario Batali Greenwich Village Food Tour, my stomach screamed with joy!
I always dreamed of visiting one of Batali’s restaurants (he owns over 30 worldwide!) and the fact he collaborated with Walks of New York to create the perfect Italian food tour blows my mind!
This was the most unique experience I’ve had on a tour from sitting down in several restaurants to being part of a small, intimate group. And the food itself was outstanding: simple ingredients creating bold and wonderful flavours.
Walks of New York was the highlight of my vacation…
With an empty stomach, we all met at Father Devo Square, our tour guide, Nikki, took us on a spectacular hunt around the Village for the tastiest Italian cuisine.
Our first stop was Faicco’s Italian Specialty store where we munched on snack-sized arancino. Essentially, it’s a deep-fried ball of rice with varied ingredients in the centre, usually including cheese. I took my first bite into the scrumptious treat and realized it was filled with gooey ricotta! The steam coming out of the handmade arancino made everyone warm and fuzzy inside, ready for our next surprise.
When we passed through the revolving doors of Batali’s understated Otto Enoteca Pizzeria, I felt as if I was really in Italy!
Awaiting our arrival were chunks of beautiful cheese (ricotta was my favourite), a colourful arugula salad lightly dressed with dehydrated tomatoes and olive oil, and a whole plate of salami with fennel. And then the seasonal bruschetta—leeks with chili flakes on beautiful Italian bread—landed on the table.
I looked around to observe everyone else’s reactions while Nikki talked about all of the different options in front of us. The nodding of approval and smartphones being whipped out for photo-ops was all I needed to confirm we made it to foodie heaven!
We quickly made it to Batali’s Lupa soon after where I had high expectations at this point.
Luckily, the focaccia dipped in olive oil satisfied me until the highlight of our visit arrived: ricotta gnocchi, a much lighter version of the original recipe. It was tossed in a sweet tomato sauce, the perfect amount to highlight the little dumplings. I have to admit I wanted more, but I knew our tour wasn’t over yet.
After a quick walk, we ended up at our final restaurant, Pagani on Bleecker Street. It’s owned and managed by Enzo, a Sicilian man happy to chat about his background, inspirations, and his menu like tagliolini al limone – the impressive and aromatic pasta we tried- infused with lemon juice and tossed with lemon zest, carrot, parmigiano, and toasted garlic. The texture was remarkably similar to an Asian noodle!
We also enjoyed fresh speck and prosciutto, nicely presented on wooden boards, along with olive oil tastings with Nikki.
There’s always room for Gelato…
Of course, what better way to wrap up our Italian food tour than with some delicious gelato! Our final stop on the tour was at Dolce Gelateria, a cute little shop with bold and unique flavours (olive oil and eggnog to name a couple). I chose dark chocolate and mixed berry as samples and my taste buds were delighted!
Although our tour finished off with mouth-watering gelato, the real cherry on top was Nikki, a self-proclaimed Italian food aficionado and our wonderful guide.
I noticed right away how welcoming and excited she was to lead the tour, even if it was a cloudy and wet day. Everything she talked about- food, markets, history of Greenwich Village- was well thought out and meaningful. Her bubbly personality and knowledge of Batali’s history was quite impressive and I always wanted to hear more. I admired her openness to conversations and questions, which made the group comfortable as if we were all long-time friends. Walking between food tastings meant there was a lot of time to share our own Italian cuisine experiences with Nikki as we wandered through quaint streets of the Village.
Have you had an amazing food tour experience? Where was it?
Travel assistance was provided by Walks of New York. All opinions are entirely our own.
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