Pizza Tour of New York ~ 2015

It began from a desire to understand why New York pizza was so famous. Two years ago, we drove through all five boroughs and bought at least one pie (and several random slices) from each of the 5 NYC boroughs. We found the question not to be: “Which is best?” but rather “What is exceptional about each?” These pizzerias have nearly perfected the craft. Therefore, we usually order a simple plain cheese, or in certain cases, the specialty pie of the establishment. The day begins at 10:00 in a coffee shop in South Philadelphia, where we plan our route.

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DSC_0005Beginning in Staten Island, our first stop is Nunzio’s (2155 Hylan Blvd.) where we ordered a half mozzarella and half margherita pie. Their sauce is a standout as well as the authentic NY accents of the men serving the food. The hardest part of the first stop is not eating a second slice.

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DSC_0006We moved north to Joe & Pat’s (1758 Victory Blvd.) where pictures inside were proibito. The pizza wasn’t ruined by a manager’s sour attitude. Their cheese had some delicious, aged quality we couldn’t identify. The dough was very flimsy in the middle and hard to handle, still good though.

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DSC_0011Heading to Denino’s (524 Port Richmond Ave.) we were surprised at the staff’s friendliness here. They asked us about our plan for the day and offered tips. Their slogan is “In Crust We Trust” and rightly so, as the crust is uniformly crunchy and fantastic. We ordered a half cheese and half M.O.R. (meatball, onion, ricotta). Those ingredients are a potent and patently palatable combination. We loved this place with their cheerful servers, jukebox ambience and tasty food. A recurring theme of smiles surrounding a pizza begins~~~~

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DSC_0017A brief stop to walk off the first few slices, we found ourselves at the Staten Island Ferry and Lighthouse Museum while our next pizza was cooking. It was a brutally cold day, but provided great views of the Big Apple. I can imagine the bustling city docks before they were just broken pilings rotting in the Hudson Bay.

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DSC_0020The last stop in Shaolin Island was Pier 76 (76 Bay St.), where the son of Joe and Pat’s opened his own place. We got the vodka pie. Simply outstanding flavors. It was a masterpiece of comfort pizza with the cheese literally becoming part of the dough and the rich vodka sauce holding it all together.

DSC_0047We moved into Brooklyn’s Coney Island and stopped at Totonno’s (1524 Neptune Ave.). 91 years of experience prove enough to give a quality pie. The pizzaiolo was a friendly guy who smiled as he worked. Their pizza was intricately flavored with burned crust and a pleasing appearance. This feels like ‘old school’ NYC pizza.

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DSC_0053Next was a rather forgettable stop at Ramagi (594 Rogers Ave.) as we ran some errands. To be fair it was the only place where we ordered slices, and it was in the slow time of 15:00, but the service was poor and my buffalo chicken slice was boring. The pesto slice smelled and looked much better.

DSC_0060Hoping to please my taste buds after such blandness, we went to the legendary DiFara’s (1424 Ave J.). I love this pizza! The olive oil and basil added immediately after exiting the oven creates veritable pizza alchemy. Dom DeMarco stills crafts each pizza with the help of a few assistants. Arrive early as waiting time often hovers over the 60 minute mark. The only downside was that the cheese didn’t migrate towards the crust enough, so my slice had too much charred dough at the end. As I often say, you can’t win ’em all.

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DSC_0066Darkness descending upon us, snow babies ripening in the clouds above, stomachs shrouded in cheese, we crawled into our last stop, the ever so funky, Roberta’s (261 Moore St.). This is a large place that serves as a nightclub and pizzeria. Their pizzas are smaller, at 6 slices each, so we ordered several to taste test. I don’t remember all the names, but the soft doughy texture and spicy arrangements of toppings was a perfect finish to our day.

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DSC_0082Meeting up with friends we made years ago while we were all English teachers in Korea, eating pizza together and sharing new stories was a perfect end to the day.

DSC_0098Lost in conversation, we forgot about the incoming blizzard; therefore, driving the 80 miles south to Philly was treacherous, and took us about 4 white knuckled hours to finally sleep the well deserved pizza coma we were all awaiting.

DSC_0071This is the car the next day looking like we drove through the ice planet of Hoth.

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New York ~ Museum of Modern Art

Begun in the late 1920’s as an idea from John Rockefeller’s wife, Abby, it is one of the most famous modern art museums in the world. Walking through the museum can be exhilarating and sometimes frustrating. While art is always subjective beauty, some modern art is just confusing. The randomness and varied styles mixed with creative self-expression makes modern art so intriguing. Here were some of my favorites.

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DSC_0207 Here’s one that made me crazy. It was a white canvas followed by this description:

DSC_0175Here’s one of me becoming the art, thus putting myself inside the “the image, the story, the symbolism.”

DSC_0221Modern Art can be very random and confusing:

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But the purpose of art is eliciting emotion, and with seven billion people, that’s a lot of random and confusing emotions to go around!

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New York ~ Quick Bites at the Food Trucks of Middle 50th Streets and Pizza at Cer té

On a recent trip visiting the Korean Consulate in Manhattan, I tested a few kebab trucks in the area of Park Ave. and the 50’s. First stop was Uncle Gussy’s (51st St.), which had a loquacious owner who seemed quite familiar with most of his customers. “Hey, Paula, green salad with chicken and spicy sauce? Whoa, Gene, where you been lately? Hi Donna, you stayin outta trouble?” I got the chicken and lamb pita with “the works”. The lamb was great, but chicken was just lumpy protein. I ate on the steps of St. Bartholomew’s Church.

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DSC_0107Next I went for a kebab plate at Rafiqi’s (53rd St). Evidently, there are many Rafi’s who like to cook kebabs. As I walked down Park Ave., I saw 3 more trucks with the same name. The “original” Rafiqi was a few quarters cheaper than Uncle Gussy, but offered more trimmings to add to the plate such as beans and veg. Nothing special here, but good for a quick, cheap bite.

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DSC_0113 Each street, from 50th to 58th and possibly continuing up into Harlem had their own food cart, some better looking than others.

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Last, as I made my way to the MoMa, I spotted a beautiful facade of a Catholic Church.

DSC_0127After a great afternoon admiring art, some pizza was needed for the quick drive home through New York rush hour traffic to Philadelphia. I went to Cer Té (50 W. 55th St.) I started with their February special slice, bacon, root vegetables set on a creamy white base, which was more milky than I like, but tasty. Also, there was an Italian Wedding Soup slice with sausage, spinach and Grana Padano, which was the winner.

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DSC_0228 New York’s heavy traffic doesn’t bother me as much when I’m walking.

DSC_0118Before my nighttime drive through the jungles of the New Jersey turnpike, I stopped in a cafe named for one of the most famous names in coffee from the 1980’s.

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2015 Philadelphia Auto Show

Shiny paint, hot girls in tight pants, new car smell, big horsepower, powerful engines and steep price tags are spread out across the carpeted floors of the Pennsylvania Convention Center. I’m not a car guy, but everybody here is a car guy tonight. Brand new cars and wonderful examples of the past give plenty to talk about. I was very impressed by most of the displays. Japanese and German manufacturers dominated my eye, but American companies are making strides forward with better gas mileage and sleek design.

The night started poorly, with a heavy rain falling and Dad and I eating probably the saddest, dryest cheesesteak in Philly.

DSC_0001It got better inside the convention center where the glitz and shine was on full display. Enjoy the pictures.

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DSC_0034The old cars were my favorite as they carried a sense of history with them.

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DSC_0056The crew enjoying some bro time.

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DSC_0065This is an amazing car, sized like a mini mini. No blind spots.

DSC_0071There was also a customized section where the car dudes could show off their creations.

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Philadelphia ~ Reading Terminal Market

My hometown city, Philadelphia, has a famous place for diners seeking a wide variety of flavors; it’s the market of the old train station at 12th and Arch St. The cheesesteaks are probably delicious, but I wanted to sample a few places instead of just filling up on meat and cheese.

My first stop was at the 12th Street Cantina. I ordered the pork pibil with hot sauce. It tasted the way Taco Bell would taste if they used real meat and quality vegetables. A comfortingly soft tortilla and hot, salty, spiced pork matched the chilled pico de gallo to make a mouth party.

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DSC_0023 Next, I saw a hot dog place. They had a dog for only 2$, so I couldn’t resist! Crunchy bacon and cool sauerkraut were perfect toppings, I shouldn’t have added the dominating taste of relish.

DSC_0028After the appetizers, I went for the Beck’s Cajun Cafe. The gator gumbo sounded great. It was tasty but exceedingly spicy. Lucky to have the rice and corn bread.

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My mouth seething with spiciness, I went to grab a mango, banana, kale, and carrot smoothie.

DSC_0036Finally, I took home some quality truffles from Mueller Chocolates. The black forest and raspberry were my favorites. Right beside was Termini Brothers, where you can find high quality cannoli.

DSC_0040The market was full of interesting eateries. I tried to go back, but they close at 18:00. So if you’re going, make it for lunch. They offer a full shopping experience as well with cold cuts, organic produce, and other assorted trinkets for sale.

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Probably the most famous spot of Reading Terminal is DiNic’s Roast Pork, and I didn’t go for unexplainable reasons. Another time…

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Philly is a great strolling city with a beautiful neo-classical city hall that I passed on the walk.

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