To be absolutely honest, I had some reservations about how much I would learn on the Ahoy New York Food Tour. After all, I’d lived in NYC for 4 years and pretty much spent every other weekend roaming the streets of Chinatown in search for legit dimsum, Singaporean comfort food and groceries. As for Little Italy, I didn’t care much for it after my first year because it seemed full of touristy restaurants that didn’t serve very authentic food. There were much better Italian options you could find in hole-in-the-wall eateries in the East Village.
So what could the Ahoy New York food tour through Little Italy and Chinatown teach us?
Plenty, as it turned out.
For one, despite knowing which restaurants were good and which to avoid in Little Italy & Chinatown, I didn’t know anything about the history of both neighbourhoods. Did you know that little Italy used to be way bigger than its Chinese counterpart even though now, ironically, the converse is true? Or that the first tenement house in Chinatown is still there? We could never have imagined that there would be so many secrets and stories hidden in the back alleys. With the use of maps and visual aids, our guide was able to transport us back to the Mafia-ridden days with his tales of turmoil, just so we could imagine how complex and different these neighbourhoods were then.
What is really cool about the tour is its selection of local vendors, most of whom have been part of the community for the past few decades and some, even for a century! In a city like New York, competition is absolutely brutal. So the fact that these stores have thrived for so many years speaks volumes of the quality of their food and attention to customer service, which we were fortunate to experience first hand!
A food tour is nothing without delicious food, and with 7 food stops over 3 hours, it was clear that our guide considered it necessary to keep our mouths moving constantly. From pasta to prosciutto, and mozzarella to mantou, our taste buds were constantly tantalised by fresh flavours that were incredibly authentic considering how the origins of these dishes were thousands of miles away. We’re talking about dumplings bursting with flavour, cannolis that felt like spring had blossomed in our mouths, and pasta sauce so full of natural sweetness, we wanted to bring it back to Singapore with us! Sadly for us, the sauce was too fresh to survive the 24 hour journey back.
Food for Thought
As foodies, we also loved how our guide took the effort to explain exactly where these dishes hailed from, and even what their names meant. These little nuggets of information made us so much more appreciative of what we were eating, and shed light on how the history of these dishes are inextricably tied up with the stories of the immigrants. It really got us thinking about how little we actually know about the food we consume on a daily basis!
Whether you’re a native New Yorker or first-time visitor, the Ahoy New York Food Tour is definitely worth checking out. It not only revealed to us how rich New York City’s history was, but also how little we know about it. While we wouldn’t claim that the food on the tour is the best Italian and Chinese food we’ve ever had, we enjoyed every single dish we were served and were making mental checklists of the ones we wanted to visit again in future. We left the tour not only with full stomachs, but with hearts full of desire to continue peeling back the layers of these neighbourhoods.
Details of Ahoy New York Food Tour
Duration: 3 hours
Includes: 7 food stops and tons of recommendations
Tips: Go hungry and don’t make lunch plans after!
ETSY Explores were guests of Ahoy New York Food Tours. However, all opinions remain ours and are completely unbiased.
This article first appeared in ETSY Explores.