Are you a lover of Italian food? Do you love to explore local gems? Do you live in, or will be visiting New York City soon? If you have answered yes to all of the previous questions, I have got a treat for you. Walks of New York, the walking tour company that helps New Yorkers and tourists alike discover the varied history and culture of the city, has recently launched the Official Mario Batali™ Greenwich Village Food Tour.
I was invited to take the tour myself from the company, and of course, jumped at the opportunity. I have long been a fan of Batali’s work and authentic approach to food, so I was excited to take the tour to discover more about his food and the home to his restaurants, the Greenwich Village.
Washington Square Park arch
The meeting point for my morning tour was right under the arch of Washington Square Park. It was there on that sun-filled morning that I met Simona, my incredible guide for the tour. Originally from Rome and living in New York City for a few years now, Simona was very well-versed in all Italian cuisine from a historical context right up to the present.
I got some insight on the neighborhood of Greenwich Village, and its history as a stomping ground for Italian immigrants. We took a bit of a walk through time, and I am here to share all of my stops with you.
Special menu for Walks of New York
Our first stop on the tour was Batali’s famed pizzeria, Otto. Nestled on the unassuming 8th Street right off of Fifth Ave, the restaurant opened a little earlier especially for us. Upon arrival, we took a seat by a bright window, and had a little tasting of some of the menu offerings.
A glimpse of the offerings
I nibbled on various cheeses, a fresh arugula and cherry tomato salad, sliced salami, perfectly cooked lentils, stewed apricots with chili flakes, and a bruschetta unlike any other. It was really amazing to get schooled on cheese by Simona, and why different varieties get their specific taste. Along with the nibbles and brick-oven pizzas, Otto has an extensive wine list and education program.
Florence Prime Meat Market from curbside
Our next stop on the walking tour was Florence Prime Meat Market. The old-school butcher shop has been providing the best cuts of meat to the community since 1936. Once inside it feels like you are transported to yesteryear through black and white photos, and some original signage.
Extensive meat list
Here, I was treated to a generous slice of prosciutto di Parma. Sliced excellently thin, the prosciutto was filled with delicious flavors and not over-salted and melted in my mouth with each bite. Just delicious.
Inside the pizzeria
We took a short walk over to Bleecker St. to discover John’s of Bleecker Street, a neighborhood staple since 1929. Founded by Italian immigrant John Sasso, the restaurant has been sold over the decades, but continues to be family-run. The interior of the restaurant was cozy and worn with time in a charming way. The original wood booths are present, etched lovingly by customers over the years, paired with black & white Art Deco-tiled floors, and tin ceilings.
Simona and I sat in a booth near the entrance, and I was treated to a great story on the pizzeria’s history, as well as their signature brick-oven pizzas. We shared a cheese pie, which sounds rather ordinary, but it was quite extraordinary. The marinara was perfectly balanced, not too sweet, not too sour, and the mozzarella was perfectly melted. Guaranteed to keep you coming back.
Pagani at street side
We took a stroll up Bleecker Street to stop into the uber-popular, Pagani. The restaurant is notably known for its selection of fresh, homemade pastas. We had a quick chat with the staff, and little did I know about how much I would learn here.
Simona started this stop on the tour with a full lesson on olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I love Italian food, but am not extremely well-versed in the different varieties and quality levels of both balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I tasted a large assortment in the manner in which one would taste wine, but tasting by dipping hearty slices of bread into the liquid of choice at the time.
Fresh pasta with lemon sauce
After my balsamic and olive oil schooling, I was treated to a fresh pasta dish. Comprised of fresh spaghetti, tossed in a lemon sauce and topped with parsley and slivers of carrot, the dish was refreshing. I love fresh pasta as it is so much lighter on the palate than boxed versions, and the lemon added the right amount of zest.
Meatball with marinara
Next up was a hearty meatball in marinara sauce, topped lightly with sprinkles of parmesan cheese and parsley. I was surprised at the flavors of the meatball as it was made from veal, and not ordinary beef. It’s size was also different to me. Simona informed me that in Italy you usually have one larger meatball with dinner, as opposed to multiple smaller meatballs that we usually serve with our dinners in the United States.
Blood Orange Sorbetto. Photo: PopBar
After this delicious multi-layered lunch, I thought I was done, but there was one last stop. Dessert of course! We walked back down Bleecker to the corner of 6th Ave; the location of PopBar, a unique “gelato on a stick” shop. Since I truly am a kid in a candy store when it comes to dessert, my eyes bolted back and forth when it was time to decide on one pop.
I finally decided upon the Blood Orange sorbetto pop. PopBar has a wide array of gelato, sorbetto, and yogurt pop flavors, all that can be customized with various toppings including chocolate and nuts. I could not ask for a better way to spend my afternoon.
To experience the Official Mario Batali™ Greenwich Village Food Tour, head on over to the Walks of New York website. At $64, you definitely get your money’s worth with the extensive amount of knowledge, and food of course!
*All photos by Andrea K. Castillo
I received a complimentary tour from Walks of New York.