Students in the New York City program continued their culinary exploration of the city last week with a trip to Little Italy and Chinatown. Titled “Eating the Big Apple: Global Food and Food-writing in New York City,” this semester’s program examines the way globalization, history, and culture contribute to the way we think and write about food.
After a morning food writing class, the group of 14 students and program director Professor Naomi Guttman traipsed to the St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral on the Lower East Side. There began a tour that covered about eight blocks and 100 years of immigration, culture, and good meals.
Food historian and tour guide Cathy Kaufman, a professor at the New School, began with an overview of Manhattan’s Italian American community. The group tried the Neopolitan pizza at Lombardi’s, “America’s First Pizzeria,” founded in 1905, and then continued on to Di Palo’s Fine Foods, a Little Italy mainstay selling meats, cheese, and other Italian delicacies. Over a tasting of handcrafted mozzarella, ricotta and pancetta, the group got a rundown of the family business dating back four generations to 1925.
“My favorite part of the tour was the trip to the pizza shop,” said Marie Fouché ’19. “It was so interesting to learn that in Italy, pizza is usually eaten without any meat toppings. I was a bit hesitant to eat the Margarita pizza, but once I took a bite of it I was so glad I did. The pizza tasted so authentic and good. I don't think I'll ever be able to view pizza in the same way again.”
Just across the street, the group took in a market in Chinatown and Kaufman segued to the history of New York City’s Chinese American community. She led the tour down Mott Street to try dumplings and pork buns, stopping along the way to listen to the musicians in Columbus Park.
“Our tour guide brought us to a tiny hole-in-the-wall dumpling shop, barely big enough for five people, owned by two elderly women who made dumplings by hand right in front of us. They were probably the best dumplings I've ever tasted,” said Isabel Taswell ’19.
Alice Chen ’18 said she found the tour constructive and eye opening.
“We tried some food that represents the unique Italian and Chinese culture, and it was amazing that all classmates, of different background, reached a consensus that the food we tried is delicious,” Chen said. “That almost proves that NYC is indeed a melting pot for culture and food."