Greenwich Village is one of the last remaining, “neighborhoods,” in New York City where you can find the butcher, the baker, and even the mozzarella cheese maker all within walking distance of each other. You can find most of what your heart and mouth desire on the neighborhood’s lifeline of sorts, Bleecker Street.
The finest way to see the neighborhood is on a culinary walking tour with Savory Sojourns. The tour is lead by founder and owner Addie Tomei, who knows every nook and cranny of Greenwich Village. She is full of spunk and walks fast, so you have to learn to keep up at the beginning of the tour. She will not hesitate to hurry you along.
If you have yet to meet your daily quota for cups of coffee, you’re sure not to miss your goal at Porto Rico Importing. You could possibly get your caffeine fix by just standing outside and smelling the aromas from within. Owned and operated by the Longo family for three generations, Porto Rico Importing is over 100 years old. Inside the walls are lined with coffee and tea from all over the world. Coffee beans fill the burlap bags on display in the center of the store, all ready to be ground, bagged, and enjoyed.
Just on the edge of Greenwich Village, borderline SoHo, is Raffetto’s. This is where you will find fresh pasta of every kind; plain, spinach, tomato, whole wheat, pepper, mushroom, and saffron just to name a few. All pasta are cut to order at any size. What a great concept, huh? Too bad the idea was thought of over 100 years ago when Raffetto’s was established. In addition to pasta, the ravioli and tortellini make for a great meal. All pasta products should be served with one of the homemade sauces prepared on site. When visiting, please be sure to bring cash, no credit cards are accepted.
Next, Addie, hurriedly takes you back into the heart of Greenwich Village, where she shows you, “Mozzarella Heaven,” a.k.a. Joe’s Dairy. One would never know to add fresh mozzarella to their list of, “salivating smells.” Patrons are given the opportunity to glance into the shoe box of a kitchen and watch the men stick their bare hands in 185°F water in order to pull and stretch the mozzarella cheese to perfection. Fresh cheeses can be purchased plain or smoked.
Next on the list is Blue Ribbon Market. Here, “our daily bread” is made fresh from the 140+-year-old wood-burning oven from across the street at the Market’s mother store, Blue Ribbon Bakery. One has to be in the store to truly experience the intense bread flavors that get your olfactory sensors into a state of euphoria. Blue Ribbon Market not only sells bread but prepared items as well. However, the star of the store is the 100% raw Mexican Honey. It is sold in a variety of flavors which are meant to be used for different purposes. The honey’s flavors and levels of intensity are described by a store employee as he smears the honey onto a piece of toasted buttered bread.
If your nose still hasn’t had enough of a workout from the bread and mozzarella cheese, then you are in for a treat. Aphrodesia is a unique store filled with all kinds of herbs and spices. The best part is that you can buy just as much as you need. All herbs and spices are sold in bags of different sizes. Aphrodesia carries a large array of potpourris and body care products, as well as teas and gifts.
The next and most anticipated stop is Murray’s Cheese. Glass coolers are crammed full of cheeses from around with world, all at very sensible prices. Customers can get as little or as much as they like, all you have to do is take a number because lines can get very long. The sales staff is quite knowledgeable and can lead you in the right direction when selecting from the hundreds of cheeses. For the true cheese lovers, Murray’s Cheese offers weekly classes and tours to enhance to cheese eating experiences.
Faicco Pork is an authentic Italian deli that is known for its homemade sausages. Huge logs of provolone cheese hang from the ceiling, and any kind of pork product lay in the glass coolers waiting to be devoured. As a special treat, a sampling of arancini, fried risotto balls, are passed around. Cooked to crispy perfection, these little balls of risotto serve as the perfect amuse-bouche before lunch.
The Sojourn’s Tour ends with a prix fixe lunch at a local restaurant with your fellow tour mates. Some may feel timid eating at a table full of strangers, but Addie entertains the table with fruitful conversation and can answer any question relating to New York City that is asked.
Though the official tour may be over, your day does not need to end here. Walk off your lunch by heading over to Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks. This bookstore is crammed full of cookbooks, some dating back to the 18th Century. With her rare vintage cookbooks, Bonnie Slotnick has created a mini-cookbook kingdom within this old-world neighborhood. She herself will assist you with anything you may be looking for.
What better way to end your day, than a cup or cone of something creamy and sweet. Grom serves not just, “ice creams,” but authentic gelatos and sorbets with ingredients and preparation methods of those in Italy. With an abundance of seasonal flavors to choose from, patrons can be assured to love every creamy one of them.
What & Where:
Savory Sojourns (888-9-SAVORY; www.savorysojourns.com)
Porto Rico Importing (201 Bleecker St; 212-477-5421)
Raffetto’s (144 West Houston, 212-777-1261)
Joe’s Dairy (156 Sullivan St; 212-677-8780)
Blue Ribbon Market (14 Bedford St; 212-647-0408)
Aphrodesia (264 Bleeker St; 212-989-6440)
Murray’s Cheese (254 Bleecker St; 212-243-3289)
Faicco Pork (260 Bleecker Street, 212-243-3289
Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks (163 West 10th St; 212-989-8962)
Grom (233 Bleecker St & Carmine; 212-206-1738)
Native Texan moved to New York to attend culinary school (French Culinary Institute). After falling in love with the city, New York quickly became her, “home.” Hailee currently works in the kitchen at the Four Seasons Hotel. Hailee enjoys reading, writing, marathon running, and has an addiction to Scrabble. She lives in the Bronx with her husband, Rogers and family, Marie and Laura.