The Mario Batali Food Tour is a great way to experience NYC’s thriving Greenwich Village with good food and interesting stories.
As I bit into the crispy arancini, I was transported back to Naples, the Italian city where Daryl and I recently visited and ate so very well.
But, no, I was in New York City, at the beginning of the official Mario Batali Greenwhich Village Food Tour, a fascinating walking tour that delves into the history of Greenwich Village while providing a peek into Mario Batali’s history with the city.
Whether or not you’re on this tour, it’s hard to miss the Italian flavor in Greenwich Village. The rich immigrant history is intertwined in the soul of this busy Manhattan neighborhood. Italian family names are on signs next to trendy shops, and some old-timers still live and shop amongst the yuppie hipsters. What a perfect backdrop for a walking food tour.
Mario Batali Food Tour – Antipasto Course
Appropriately, we ate the first course of our tour on the sidewalk outside of Faicco’s Italian Specialities, an old-school Italian deli that’s been in the Village for over 100 years.
When we were in Naples, Daryl and I ate fantastically fried arancini at a friggitoria. Faicco’s version of the fried Sicilian rice ball (pictured above) is made from a family recipe that dates back to the 19th century. The creamy risotto center of the golden fried ball was different from the red centered arancini in Naples, but eating it was a great start to the tour.
Faicco’s Deli is located at 260 Bleecker Street, New York, NY 10014, United States.
Mario Batali Food Tour – Primo Course
Our first primos were at Pagani, a charming restaurant on Bleeker Street just steps away from Faicco’s. Upon entering, I noticed musical elements like an accordion in the rafters. It turns out that the restaurant was a music store back in the early 1900s. Fast forward a hundred years, and Mark Barrett is the executive chef at Pagani. Chef Barrett was a sous chef at Babbo years ago, and he now runs Pagani where he makes all of the pasta from scratch.
As the sun streamed through the big windows by our table, we ate two different dishes at Pagani. First up was cured meat, specifically bresola and speck. I especially liked the smokey speck, its flavors enhanced by local herbs and juniper. We also enjoyed a fresh, tart lemon pasta after enjoying a brief olive oil tasting.
Pagani is located at 289 Bleecker Street, New York, NY 10014, United States.
We continued the primo course at Otto Enoteca e Pizzeria, nibbling on cheese and charcuterie while we listened to charming stories of eating these same foods in Italy. We feasted on salad, bruschetta, Tuscan lentils and apricots with chili. Although my favorite dish was the bruschetta made with loads of crunchy, fresh green vegetables, my favorite story involved lentils being lucky for New Years Day in Italy. Hey, we can all use a little luck in our lives.
Otto Enoteca e Pizzeria is located at 1 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10003, United States.
Mario Batali Food Tour – Secondo Course
Just when I thought I was full, it was time for the best bite of the tour at Lupa Osteria Romana, a popular restaurant that was buzzing on this Saturday afternoon.
I absolutely loved the gnocchi – little fluffy pillows in a savory sauce of ricotta, sausage and fennel.
I also enjoyed the herbaceous squares of focaccia. Apparently, people in Italy kiss bread on the rare occasions when they have to throw bread away. Thankfully nobody had to kiss this focaccia.
Lupa Osteria Romana is located at 170 Thompson Street, New York, NY 10012, United States.
Mario Batali Food Tour – Dolce Course
No meal is complete without dessert, so I was pleased to finish the walking tour with a sweet treat at Dolce Gelateria. This tiny ice cream shop, owned by Sicily-born Salvatore Potestio, serves artisan gelato made with local, seasonal ingredients.
Narrowing down the varied flavors to just two was challenging, but pistachio and olive oil were the flavors that I couldn’t pass up. I normally like pistachio gelato best, but the freshly pressed olive oil gelato was the winner of the two mini cones.
Dolce Gelateria is located at 33 Barrow Street, New York, NY 10014, United States.
Ending a meal with a taste of a good balsamic vinegar can have the same impact as ending a meal with a digestif. This is how tour guide Simona concluded our tour, and I liked it. In fact, I liked it a lot.
The Mario Batali food tour ended three hours and many delicious bites after it started. Thanks to the tour, I was full of good food, brimming with interesting trivia and ready for the rest of the day.
Update: This tour has a new name – Authentic Italian Greenwich Village Food Tour & Tastings.
I was a guest of Walks of New York to facilitate this article. Walks of New York offers a selection of walking tours ranging from $59 to $159.
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