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Pizza in Little Italy and other food questions

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I'm headed back to nyc, this time with my 10 yr old daughter. My trip two months ago w/ girlfriends was a huge success, thanks to all the fabulous recs made by CH'ers. Sadly, we won't be hitting Blue Ribbon, Landmarc, etc., but I would still like to go on a couple food excursions that she would enjoy.

One day we plan to take the Staten Island Ferry for a cruise around NY Harbor. I've never done this before and am curious as to whether there is anywhere I need to visit in St. George (walking distance)? Since we'll be in lower Manhattan, any good pizza places that I should be on the look out for? Gelato?

Do I need to visit Shake Shack? Seriously, is it a must? I've had the burger at The Spotted Pig and it was mind-blowingly good. Is Shake Shack's much better? Also, my daughter doesn't do burgers, so if we do Shake Shack, are their dogs good?

We will be staying on the UWS (76th & Broadway) and I've learned that their is a Zabar's and a Citerella's w/i walking distance. Are these a foodlover's paradise? Any good breakfast &/or lunch spots in this general area?

I really would like to take her to one of David Chang's spots. I've been to Noodle Bar & Ssam and I think she would appreciate the former over the latter. But what about Milk Bar? I've read mixed reviews. But I wonder if it is a place a 10 yr old would enjoy.

A friend told me about Beard Papa's cream puffs - are they really that good? How about Van Leeuwen artisan ice cream trucks... are these easy to find and is it delicious?

Thanks, in advance, Chowhounds. I'll be sure to report back, just like last time!

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  1. Van Leeuwen is on Greene between Prince & Spring and is most definitely worth it. Pass on Papa Beards, try any Momofuku (David Chang's) Zabar's is great too, but not for eating there. Great appliances too! Go to Sullivan Street for bread & room temperature pizza unbelievable. Taim on 22 Waverly for the best falafel in NYC. Dinosaur BBQ, just voted best BBQ in USA last weekend by Good Morning America viewers.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Hondo3777

      Thanks for the recs.

      Doesn't Van Leeuwen have ice cream trucks too?

      Have u been to Milk Bar? As I mentioned, I've been to Noodle & Ssam and am just trying to see what would most interest a 10 yr old. She loves ramen and who couldn't fall in love w/ the pork buns. But they have some wacky concoctions at the bakery & milk bar too.

      I don't know about bbq in nyc. I'm coming from NC and we do it differently here(whole hog, vinegar based). :)

      1. re: lynnlato

        I really enjoy Milk Bar. Right now, their soft serve ice cream flavors are Atomic Fire Ball (delicious and spot on taste, just like the candy), Red Licorice (tastes like twizzlers, decent), sour gummy (didn't taste) and chocolate mint (really good). Also the cakes, pies are cookies are not "normal", so if you're daughter is willing to experiment, she could really enjoy it. Plus, they serve the pork buns there too. Pork buns and atomic fireball soft serve sounds like a great meal to me. It is also attached to Ssam bar, so you can eat at Ssam bar and then go next door to Milk Bar for dessert. Sadly, you can't order from the Milk bar at Ssam.

        I love Shake Shack but would never wait on an hour line to eat there, or anywhere. If you are coming on a weekend, unless its raining, I can't imagine a wait of less than an hour there. There is a branch on the UWS, but I've never been and can't tell you how long the typical waits are there.

        In Lower Manhattan, you should definitely go to Adrianne's Pizza Bar on Stone St.

        1. re: ESNY

          The lines at the UWS branch on 77th/Columbus are OK, not as bad as the Madison Square Park one, but the inside is poorly designed and too small, with weird line management, not enough seating, a tiny/dark basement area with not enough seating, etc. But if you're staying nearby, you could conceivably bring it back with you, or eat outside in the park if it's nice out.

        2. re: lynnlato

          Van Leeuwen has a truck in Park Slope, and I've tried their ice cream twice, and was twice underwhelmed. Chinatown Ice Cream Factory is much better.

          1. re: lynnlato

            Van Leeuwen has a few trucks that park all around the city at various times. You can keep track of them via Twitter. Greene Street between Prince and Spring is one of their common parking spots, but they do get around.

        3. The hot dogs at shake shack are good, but I would try Crif Dogs for the best hot dogs, if that's what you really are going for. If you want a "mind-blowingly good" burger, it might not be the spot. Shake Shack has fantastic burgers but I think it's partly the outside atmosphere and partly the upscale fast-food style (at the Mad. Sq. Park one) that makes it one of my favorite spots. It's a thin patty, not a thick burger - so you have to like that type of burger.

          In the Little Italy area for pizza, try Lombari's. One of the best in that location.

          Beard Papa does have good cream puffs, but I wouldn't go out of my way to find them. You can try Grom for great gelato on the UWS - the truck moves a lot so you have to know where it will be.

          1 Reply
          1. re: stephaniec25

            I think you mean Lombardi's, and it's technically in Nolita, not Little Italy.

          2. Adrienne's Pizza is very good and close to the Staten Island Ferry.I think they only sell pizza by the pie,not the slice.The pizza comes 10 slices to a pie,but the slices are small.
            My coworkers and I usually split a pie two or three ways.One of my favorite pizza's in Manhattan.I believe they also sell gelato.

            1 Reply
            1. re: TooLooseLaTrek

              Adrienne's and Lombardi's are both good choices for pizza, I think.

            2. > Since we'll be in lower Manhattan, any good pizza places that I should be on the look out for? Gelato?

              Not that many pizza places of note in lower Manhattan except for Adrienne's. As for Little Italy, I've never felt that the food was worth going out of your way for (pizza and anything else). Plus, I don't react well to the hard sell (they post people outside every restaurant who try to engage you in conversation, they tell you how awesome the food is, call you beautiful, try to make you eat there). I'd walk through Little Italy, but then high tail it to one of the surrounding neighborhoods for food.

              For gelato, if your daughter is a chocolate fan, I would seek out La Maison du Chocolat's new downtown branch. I know the Rockefeller Center branch makes its own chocolate gelato and ice cream in house during the summer. I assume the Financial District one might as well. I'd call ahead.

              > Do I need to visit Shake Shack? Seriously, is it a must? I've had the burger at The Spotted Pig and it was mind-blowingly good. Is Shake Shack's much better? Also, my daughter doesn't do burgers, so if we do Shake Shack, are their dogs good?

              Completely different styles of burgers. Shake Shack is thin, fast food style, with Shack sauce on top. I'm not sure you can't compare the two. But if you do go, the Shack dogs are OK. Would she be interested in the Shroom burger?

              > We will be staying on the UWS (76th & Broadway) and I've learned that their is a Zabar's and a Citerella's w/i walking distance. Are these a foodlover's paradise? Any good breakfast &/or lunch spots in this general area?

              Zabar's is pretty good. Citerella I don't see being of much use unless you're planning to cook. Actually in that neighborhood, I'd probably stop at Jacques Torres chocolates, Grom gelato, and/or Grandaisy bakery. Grandaisy is good for bread, Roman style pizza (served at room temperature), and sandwich cookies. Mmmm. I've also been hearing good things about the Fatty Crab branch that opened up recently there, although that might be a little out there for a ten year old.

              For breakfast/brunch in that area, I'd go to Sarabeth's, Good Enough to Eat, Barney Greengrass (closed Mondays), Ouest, or Nice Matin. Note that the latter two are weekend brunch only. You can also go to Zabar's, buy a packet of smoked salmon and some cream cheese, go across the street to H&H, and make your own bagel sandwich back at your hotel (bring a knife).

              If your 10 year old is into candy, Milk Bar currently has a series of candy inspired soft serve flavors: fireball, sour gummy, licorice, and chocolate mint. It's wacky but she might get a kick out of it, especially if she has a huge sweet tooth. Milk Bar doesn't have seating and is more appropriate for a snack/to go I think, though.

              Beard Papa is OK. Van Leeuwen is hit or miss, dependent on the flavor, I think.

              1. I can't imagine a ten year old not enjoying Milk Bar, though I found all of the baked goods too sweet and buttery they are perfect for a kid.

                You mention she loves ramem, if so you should go to Ipudo, for what are amazing noodles and a fun dining experience. You can check out the review in this weeks NY TImes.

                As mentioned above, Little Italy is much more fun to walk through then eat at. A better meal and fun time would be in Chinatown which is right next door and a great place to visit.

                9 Replies
                1. re: maxine

                  I'm with Maxine re: Chinatown. Lunch at Big Wong's and dessert at the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory (ginger is my personal favorite). Then a nice walk to Little Italy for a cappuccino.

                  Not a big fan of Adrienne's. Lombardi's is good if you like brick oven pizza. They use fresh mozzarella, basil, etc.

                  1. re: financialdistrictresident

                    Awww, Big Wong's looks great. But my Auntie insists on going to Wo Hop everytime she is in the city. She's been going for 40+ years and she is in love with this place. I have to experience it with her, simply because...

                    I did tell her about the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory and she is very excited, as am I. :)

                    1. re: lynnlato

                      Perhaps you could persuade her to go to Great NY Noodletown instead of Wo Hop? There's some menu overlap, and both places are dumpy, but whereas Wo Hop is horrible, Great NY Noodletown is reliably good and quite a bit better than that for some items (including their roast duck).

                      1. re: Pan

                        You can't fight nostalgia. Sometimes you just have to grin and bear it.

                        I was at Wo Hop earlier this year--a bunch of guys I grew up with had a reunion, and someone decided it should be at a place that was around when we were kids.

                        Most of the food was pretty bad, but less dreadful than I was expecting. The two things at Wo Hop that were pretty good were the suey kow (either in soup or steamed) and the crabs with black bean sauce (the old NY style with minced pork). Spare ribs were not very good. They probably can do seasonal vegetables simply. Likely ong choi (water spinach) and maybe dou miao (snow pea shoots).

                        1. re: Peter Cherches

                          Peter, you're absolutely right. There is nothing that could change her mind. As I mentioned, it's been a tradition for 40+ years and she won't be swayed. Which is fine... sometimes its not about the food, but more about the experience. So, I'll have to take one for the team here.

                          Pan, fwiw, I mentioned Big Wong's to her and it was a "no dice" reaction from her. Ha! She is excited about the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory though.

                          1. re: lynnlato

                            My suggestion is give it the old "college try" and if you cannot sway them to NY Noodletown or Big Wong's, grin and bear it. It's one meal out of a lifetime of food adventures and it will make your aunt happy. I too have had the pleasure of dining at world renowned, Wo Hop with some boys from Brooklyn :) I vaguely recall a dish with black beans that was decent. Sometimes I run into the same issue with Ping's and dim sum.

                          2. re: Peter Cherches

                            Peter - Are the crabs in black bean sauce as good as they used to be say 7 years ago? I went back 3X's around 2 years ago, and swore I wouldn't go back, the crabs were gloppy and had virtually no black beans, BUT if you think they have improved since my last visit I might give them another go. Unless - you can tell me somewhere that I can find the crabs as good as wo hops used to be. Thanks!

                            1. re: michele cindy

                              I think this was my first time at Wo Hop in close to 30 years, so I can't answer your question.

                      2. re: financialdistrictresident

                        Last night I ordered an old fashioned pie from Adrienne's and it was good. Their service seems to be better, they now answer the phone on the first or second ring and don't tell me 1 hour+ for a pizza delivery. I have ordered twice from them recently. A pie from Lombardi's (cash only) in Little Italy still comes much quicker and is better. Though brick oven pizza is better to eat in right out of the oven.

                    2. All of you, many thanks! Once again, you've managed to put things in perspective for me. I will be visiting an aunt who insists on taking us to place in Chinatown which she has visited for the past 50 yrs, I think. The name escapes me, but I will report back. While there, perhaps we'll hit the Chinatown Ice Cream factory.

                      You've talked me out of Shake Shack... I think I prefer a thick burger, a la Spotted Pig.

                      I never knew Milk Bar was next to Ssam - duh. You've solved that dilemma for me as well. We can do both! By the sounds of things, my daughter will love Milk Bar.

                      I'll sort through the rest and try some suggestions on the UWS.

                      Thanks again!

                      1. Beard Papa - my opinion is, try it if you pass by one, but it's not a must at all. The Japanese sensibility tends to favor not-very-sweet sweets, but I feel like a cream puff that's barely sweet is a waste of calories.

                        Zabar's is indeed close to where you're staying - it's between 80th and 81st on Broadway. Go in and look around, but your best bet is to go during the day on a weekday. If you go on a weekend, it'll be overcrowded. And make sure to look around the 2nd floor, where they sell various kitchen equipment.

                        Citarella is basically a fish store and butcher shop, so I agree with the others: Unless you plan on cooking while you're here, just walk past the window and look at the display; don't even walk in, unless the urge strikes you.

                        By the way, if you want another ice cream recommendation, should you have a reason to be on the Lower East Side during the day, it's well worth going to Laboratorio del Gelato, which is just south of Delancey on Orchard St. The unfortunate thing about the place is that it closes at 6 PM. I do enjoy Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, though, and it's surely closer to wherever you'll be eating in Chinatown and open much later. Your best bets there are the "normal" flavors, like Lichi, Taro, Black Sesame, Pineapple, Coconut, Mango/Papaya Sorbet, etc. (they also have "exotic" flavors, like chocolate, vanilla, strawberry... :-)

                        If you want Staten Island recommendations, go to the Outer Boroughs board.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Pan

                          Laboratorio del Gelato has been on my list for 2 yrs, and I have yet to get there. I'll keep it in mind and if we're in the area maybe I'll finally get down there.

                          We actually will be cooking one night. My aunt is in town and visiting a friend who lives on the UWS. So, I may have a use for Citarella. She wants to make mussels one night.

                          Barely sweet puffs is right up my alley (type 1 diabetic). So, that's good to know, also.

                          The ice cream flavors sound amazing!

                          Thank you!

                          1. re: lynnlato

                            Whole Foods Carries Laboratorio del Gelato so you can just pick some up for you dinner at home.

                            1. re: KTinNYC

                              Not anymore, apparently:

                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6035...

                              1. re: Pan

                                The times they change so fast...

                                1. re: KTinNYC

                                  :(

                        2. If you want to try Van Leeuwen, I've seen the truck parked right outside of Fairway (next to Citarella) most weeknights until about 11:00, so it will be easy to try if you're interested. You could also try Grom (gelato from Italy) which is next to Beard Papa. For my money, though, I'd hit up Shake Shack UWS for a concrete, shake or other treat.

                          1. Unless your daughter does not like chocolate you really should bring her to Serendipity 3
                            , check the famous frozen hot chocolate. You will both enjoy this amazing drink and the atmosphere just has got to be a hit for a 10 year old girl and I think with little girls of all ages.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: GodfatherofLunch

                              I'm sorry but I'm going to have to politely disagree. I would steer clear of Serendipity 3. My friends had just gone last week and were treated with terrible service. And I find the frozen hot chocolate seriously disappointing. It's like chocolate milk served with ice chunks. I think the other hounders have suggested a ton of places to go which are far superior.

                              While Shake Shack may not hit your burger cravings, give their custards and concretes a go. They are thick, creamy and absolutely delicious. the UWS location is at 77th and Columbus and they have a line that's just for beverages and desserts that's much shorter.

                              If you like cuban food, Calle Ocho's brunch on sunday has a great bread basket and unlimited sangria...obviously this is more for mom. But the bread basket is fantastic, and don't forget the strawberry butter.

                              1. re: kelea

                                Great minds can disagree. It's all good! If you were a 10 year old girl might you feel differently. Would you like the space?

                            2. Wo Hops is not the best food, but it is pretty darn good, a classic, with some very solid old school Chinese food that you will enjoy. Late night partiers have been enjoying this place for Many Many years.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: GodfatherofLunch

                                No, it's not good. It's horrible. I was dragged there a few years ago, and it was one of the worst, most nauseating meals I've ever had. Nothing personal, but it looks like our tastes are so diametrically opposed that I might want to avoid every place you like.

                                1. re: lynnlato

                                  I was a 20 year + frequenter of Wo Hops, after 3 nostalgic visits/trys I am with Pan. The place is not even worth the nostalgia, which is pretty sad to say. My last try was about 2 years ago, I am hoping someone one day will say, things have changed.

                              2. I am back from our trip and wanted to thank you again for great recs. My auntie & her UWS pal made most of our meal choices, so I didn't get to try many of the suggestions, but I did do some.

                                Chinatown Ice Cream factory was a HUGE hit for all of us - thanks! We had black sesame, lychee, red bean & chocolate pandan. All were delicious!

                                Our hotel was right across the street from Grom gelato and Beard Papa. The gelato was good (not mind blowing for that price) but Beard Papa was another bullseye - YUM!

                                I loved perusing the grocers; Westside Market, Fairway, Citarella, etc. I was in food shopping heaven.

                                Wo Hop's was awful, as many of you said and as I expected. Fortunately we had the chinatown ice cream afterwards and that made me smile. :)

                                We went in Shake Shack at lunch time and the line was too long. :(

                                Lunch at Vivand Cafe at Broadway & 75th. Good gyro, good burger.

                                Lunch at Big Nick's - ew.

                                We had an early dinner at The Frying Pan which I thought was an amazing place! I had never heard of this place before. Of course, you don't go for the food, but rather to watch the sun set over the Hudson. For those that aren't familiar, it's situated on a barge, adjacent to a salvaged boat at Pier 66 in Chelsea (i hope I got that right). Both the barge & the boat have tables strewn about and it's totally seedy but with lots of charm. No frills, just plastic furniture, burgers, chicken, fries, some fish, and lots to drink. We enjoyed exploring the hull of the Frying Pan which is a 133 ft lightship vessel that guarded the shoals off the coast of NC (how appropriate given we're from NC). Apparently, it sank somewhere in the Chesapeak Bay and remained at the bottom of the bay for 3 yrs before she was salvaged and then sold to the current owners. http://fryingpan.com/. Insdie the boat is very creepy and they've nothing to rehab it, but rather have left it "as is". I'm surprised no one has fallen or gotten hurt in there - or maybe they have. Who knows.

                                I think i'm headed back to nyc in September so I will book mark this thread and hit some of the places I didn't have the pleasure of visiting. Ippudo looks good and a friend told me about Una Pizza Napoletana. Anyone have any opinions on this place?

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: lynnlato

                                  > Ippudo looks good and a friend told me about Una Pizza Napoletana.

                                  Uh-oh, I think you might have just opened Pandora's box!

                                  UPN is hotly debated here on CH:
                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/552902
                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/547059
                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/546969
                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/319378
                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/514151
                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/482972

                                  1. re: kathryn

                                    Ha! Well, I guess I missed out on having an opinion on a highly debated topic on the Manhattan board. As I mentioned, I may go back in September, and if I do, I'm hitting up UPN. :)

                                    1. re: lynnlato

                                      Consider Keste. There are differences of opinion on them, too, but I really liked my one meal there so far (the pizze, not the salad, which wasn't special at all).

                                  2. re: lynnlato

                                    Una Pizza Napoletana.....Being from the same region/area, I have had some great pizzas over the years and all at all the places in Manhattan considered worthy or not. UPN opened with rave reviews and much fanfare, but I was put off by the comments and opinions of the prices charged for the pizzas without knowing much about the place myself. I mean really, over 20 bucks for some flour, tomatoes, cheese and a few tears of basil?

                                    That all changed after I watched a few videos on/about UPN and it's owner....doing what he does very passionately, I may add. My opinion now is he deserves every penny, and then some, for his efforts.

                                    http://www.chow.com/stories/11065

                                    http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/...

                                    1. re: fourunder

                                      I watched the same videos. A friend of mine was there recently and he said the price was outrageous - but it was very good.

                                    2. re: lynnlato

                                      I went to a party years ago on the frying pan, and creepy is the perfect word to Are you saying they now serve food on it?

                                      1. re: michele cindy

                                        Yep - mussels, burgers (pretty good), pizza (no good), chix sand, calamari, tuna, etc. Nothing to seek out, but a decent burger. The bartenders had me "hold on" a minute before I ordered so all three of them could do a shot. I, of course, know these things go on, but most of them do it on the DL and not out on display for everyone to see. Ha!