Eating Your Way Through Little Italy & Chinatown

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Introducing Sarah Henry, an elementary school teacher who lives in Washington Heights who has lived in New York City for three years, and loves being so close to Fort Tryon Park–which offers amazing views of the Hudson River, George Washington Bridge, and is home to the Heather Gardens and the Cloisters Museum. Here’s a Q&A with her on some of her favorite places to eat in Chinatown and Little Italy. There’s also this piece about where to go nuts in both Little Italy and Chinatown for fun reading as well.

What is your favorite way to #TreatYoSelf in the city?

My favorite thing to do is to take about $20 and go on a mini food tour of Chinatown/Little Italy. There are some great hole-in-the-wall places, like the unassumingly named Fried Dumpling on Mosco Street. The dumpling lady (as I call her) is there every day. She never takes a day off. I know this because I first discovered this place during an Urban Adventures tour, and they told me she’s always there, which may account for her somewhat surly attitude.

You can even spot her in the HBO miniseries The Night Of during a scene with the defense lawyer and lead detective in the case. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, drop what you’re doing right now and binge-watch the series. Then, go have some dumplings. Two dollars will get you eight dumplings (that’s 25¢ a piece, which is a lovely light lunch or snack. The pork are the most popular, but there’s a veggie option as well.

If I want something more substantial, I’d head to Excellent Dumpling on Lafayette for some dumpling soup ($5.50, with a free pot of tea).

Dumplings make me thirsty, so my next stop would be at Sweets Bakery, on the corner of Canal and Baxter for a Yuzu Lemonade ($5.00). Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit with a more funky, floral flavor than your standard lemon. On a hot day, nothing is more refreshing.

Next I’d probably head to my favorite bakery, Lung Moon on Mulberry for one of their delicious, still-warm-from-the-oven egg custard tarts ($1.00). They have all sorts of treats available, such as sesame balls, coconut cakes, and moon cakes.  On a hot day, for dessert I might opt for ice cream from Chinatown Ice Cream Factory on Bayard, where they have an array of exotic flavors such as lychee, green tea, durian, black sesame, etc. I’m partial to the red bean ice cream.  A small scoop or cup is $4.95.

After that, I’d head north on Mulberry Street to Little Italy. While I prefer Arthur Avenue in the Bronx for real Italian cuisine to the touristy Manhattan enclave, there are a few gems. One is Ferrara Bakery, which has many delicious-looking Italian treats, but I’m a sucker for the cannolis ($2.50 for a classic mini).

By then I’m likely feeling pretty full and have exhausted most of that $20 I mentioned earlier. Before I leave the ‘hood though, I always stop at the neighboring stores Alleva and Piemonte Ravioli to pick up fresh ingredients for dinner.

Alleva is self-proclaimed oldest cheese shop in America, founded in 1892. They make their mozzarella fresh on the premises each day, which is a must-have, as well as the prociuitto, which is less salty than mainstream varieties. Plus, the tattooed guy at the counter always gives me extra samples of whatever he’s slicing at the moment.

Next door, at Piemonte, you can pick up fresh pastas (about $3.00 for a portion for two people), stuffed tortellini, and a hefty box of 50 fresh cheese raviolis for $8.50. They also have an array of homemade sauces.

For more of a splurge, I also love stopping for an Asian massage in Chinatown ($40), or at my favorite place, Okuyama  Body Work in Greenwich Village. If you have some serious knots that need attending to, ask for Mei, and she will annihilate them for a cool $48.

Also be sure to check out this great museum in Chinatown as well as where to go for Dim Sum on Lafayette Street. There’s also great reads on other parts of New York, such as this cultural piece on Astoria, great spots in Brooklyn for chocolate, cafes (including brunch), cocktails and more, as well as great in the Bronx for Italian food or steak. We have even explored the foodie scene in Harlem.

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