Walk, Talk, and Chow

In my little city, there’s an event called the ‘Burgh Food Tour’, which is essentially a tourist type attraction that takes into a neighborhood of your choice and the guides discuss a bit about the history of the area, why the area is known for whatever it is known for, and, of course, the food deemed the best. It’s a roundabout two hours tour that involves walking, talking, and eating. Of the six that are currently offered, I’ve been to two of them, one last year and one this past weekend.

Obviously, since I’ve done it again, I clearly enjoy it. What’s actually kind of funny about it, aside from the random people from nowhere in the US, most people who participate in the tours are typically from somewhere within the city area (such as myself). Did I feel like a tourist? Not at all. Well, perhaps a little with my iPhone out to take pictures and the blatant obviousness of our group taking up all the space in the buildings we go in to listen to the shop owners talk, but really, it’s a social event.

That explained and rambled, the recent tour I took (with my mother and sister) was in a place considered as “Little Italy“. I think you can figure out why it was given such a name (I’m craving ravioli again). While the first food tour the previous year has a special place in my heart for popping my tourism cherry in this city, I can’t deny the fact that this one was pretty fun.

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There were five main stops (to eat stuff) and then a couple random places that we paused by to gawk awkwardly at the buildings, strain to hear the guide talk over the street traffic behind us, and wonder how many locals were hating on us for taking up sidewalk space. Strangely though, the “tour” kind of all took place within two city blocks, as the guide was trying to do this constant-crossing-the-streets-to-stare-at-this-church-then-run-back-to-point-out-an-empty-store’s-ceiling-and-retrace-our-steps-a-block-to-discuss-a-women’s-boutique sort of business, which would’ve been fine if he didn’t keep stopping in the middle of everything. He was a nice enough guy, he just seemed a little scattered.

Two of the stops were Italian grocery stores: Groceria Italiana and Donatelli’s. It’s not like we were searching for the lost art of Da Vinci or anything, with everyone’s names being something of the Italian/Sicilian nature. Food samples: Shells with marinara and biscotti, Pasta shells with homemade, as same with the biscottis.

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Have I mentioned I have a slight obsession with biscottis? Nothing compared to a well-made biscotti with a fresh cup of joe in the morning. When that happens, nothing can fail. Nothing.

I also greatly enjoy the fact that the shop owners/managers genuinely enjoy their craft. They liked explaining everything they do at their stores, how things are made, how their business came to be. The gentleman from Donatelli’s gave us the lowdown of all his pasta making machinery in the back station, which made me desire a ravioli maker for my kitchen. Could you imagine? Any filling you want, just stamp those pasta pockets out!! I was completely enthralled with the idea, disregarding the fact that one of those bad boys would probably burn a nice-sized hole in my change pocket.

Another stop: Grasso Roberto, to sample gelato. The interior of the store was small and cute, with many things on display to check out. The manager was pretty amicable although she stayed behind the counter and watched us do our tourist-y thing. There was a pretty standard list of flavors (I ended up getting Honey Vanilla), but it was smooth and creamy, so I can’t complain.

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Of course, no Italian food tour would be complete without the inclusion of pizza, no matter how Americanized the food has become. However, our pizza place (Angelo’s Pizza) that was selected was a little ghetto and the pizza was pretty unmemorable. Who knows, maybe pizza has become such a norm in the American way that we can’t really differentiate between good and bad pizza? Granted, I had my long range of various pizzas in my college days; you know, that one place that makes $1 slices for those crazy inebriated kids wandering around after dark, and then that other place down the alleyway that nobody really knows about but their pizza is crazy good.

The final stop of the tour was, at first, the inside of a gift shop, Merante Gifts, which was Italian-based home decorations and decors. However, the cool part was going upstairs through the doorway outside, right next to the store. We walked up some very steep steps and encountered the first room:

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Very pretty, the picture doesn’t do much justice, as the front room continued on back with the same style, along with various other pieces of art to look at. The upper floor extended back down the hallway to another room, and then finally the center of the show: Maria’s Kitchen!

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Her choice of food sampling: Chocolate cake with rich chocolate butter-cream, a side of whipped cream and strawberry, and a sample cup of espresso (We are in ‘Italy’, not Spain). Can you tell which stop was probably my favorite? Maria was very outgoing and friendly, and clearly seems to love what she does. She offers cooking class in this kitchen once a week, where the students learn different variation styles of cooking, types of food, travel to purchase ingredients and even take a trip to Italy! I am definitely considering checking this out if the cost of the class is within my price range (AKA cheap), but I imagined it’s only classy people that go. All in all, the tour was fun, my mother and sister had fun, I got to buy some artichoke and gorgonzola stuffed ravioli and biscotti mix (vanilla, almond, and wine & almond).

P.S. Did you notice the light fixture in Maria’s Kitchen?

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I smell a nice DIY project in the near future, if I find the right tools.

Thanks for reading and please share with me any tours you might have done in your own towns!

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