You could spend at least a week inside this maze of eateries, cooking-supply stores and grocers without noshing on the same thing twice. Kick off the day at Amy’s Bread with a dense oatmeal scone studded with dried fruit and nuts ($3.75) or a Parisian breakfast (half baguette, butter and jam, plus coffee, tea or a café au lait; $4.25–$6.50). While you digest, head around the corner to explore the Filling Station, where you can sample all-natural infused oils, aged vinegars, imported salts and craft products. Dickson’s Farmstand stocks homemade chili-and-anise beef jerky (piece $2–$3, pound $50), but if you’d rather get more spice for your buck, stop by Chelsea Thai for an affordable, heat-packed lunch. No matter what you order—we like the garlic-and-jalapeño-kissed pad kee mao noodles ($9.95)—it’ll be fiery enough to make your nose run. Wrap up at the Tippler, an expansive subterranean bar slinging sips like the Moscow Mule (vodka, lime, Pickett's ginger beer; $12).
Drink your way through Williamsburg
In the past few years, the artisanal food movement has truly blossomed in Brooklyn, where local purveyors offer everything from handcrafted mayonnaise to hyperspecific baked goods. Escape to Williamsburg for a day; the neighborhood is home base for four standout small-batch operations. Java fiends will appreciate roaster Blue Bottle Coffee’s dedication to using only freshly prepped, mostly organic beans for its espresso and regular joe. Devotees favor the cold-drip, Kyoto-style brews ($4.25), made using an ornate machine from Japan, and the chicory-laced New Orleans–style blend ($4). At beer and spirits outfits Brooklyn Brewery and New York Distilling Company, tour the facilities and learn about the various products made on-site. You’ll be treated to samples at the brewery, though we recommend springing for a couple of proper drinks. For a taste of the distillery’s gin, pop into its adjacent bar, the Shanty. If your palate leans more toward syrah and sauvignon blanc, head straight for Brooklyn Winery, the borough’s only vino producer, for tastings, hands-on classes and other events.
Go on a Jackson Heights taco crawl
Dress in loose-fitting clothes for your amble down Roosevelt Avenue; you’ll want the extra room in your pants when this minitrek is over. Your first stop is El Gallo Giro (Spanish for “the rooster turns”), a taco truck parked beneath the 7 tracks. The location isn’t glamorous, but the well-charred carne asada and juicy pollo tacos—sprinkled with raw white onion and cilantro and wrapped in two supple corn tortillas—are worth enduring the clanging overhead. Try the tomatillo salsa (in a yellow bottle), which adds bright acidity to the cooling avocado-sauce–drenched meat. For round two, hit up Taqueria Coatzingo, a hole-in-the-wall sit-down joint decked out with colorful hanging lights and Corona paraphernalia. The best bets here are the birria de res (stewed beef) and unctuous ground chorizo, cradled in fresh-pressed corn tortillas and accompanied by wedges of lime and radish. Use the 20-minute walk to your third stop, Tacos Morelos, to revive your appetite. Here, ask for the barbacoa (steamed goat) and al pastor (spit-roasted pork) varieties, which get the traditional dose of zippy onion and cilantro. El Gallo Giro, Roosevelt Ave at 78th St (no phone) • Taqueria Coatzingo, 76-05 Roosevelt Ave between 76th and 77th Sts (718-424-1977) • Tacos Morelos, 94-13 37th Ave at 94th St (347-832-0193) • All tacos $2.50 each.
In walking distance to the Barclay Center, Brooklyn’s Bella Gioia is reminiscent of an underground eating club I once saw on an episode of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. Weathered crates lined exposed brick, adding to the European charm and open kitchen. Bella Gioia’s 5-10pm dinnertime is ideal for the after work diner. make sure to watch the clock because the kitchen stops serving at 8:45pm and is subject to change daily. Our server worked the room like a ballerina touching each table with a welcoming energy. With Italian accent in tow she pronounced everything on the menu with authenticity, making me want to reach for my Rosetta Stone. The sharable arancini ($9) was rich and flavorful enough to stand alone, only to be enhanced by the four dipping sauces and our red wine. Entrées missed the mark on flavor, texture and temperature. Ravioli de Cacocciuli ($19) served artichoke two ways, filling and fried – the subtle flavor of the filling was bumped up by the salt level of the tomato crème and the fried artichoke topper should have its own place on the menu since it was so good, however the ravioli’s pasta was thick and lacked that melt-in-your-mouth feel. Speaking of lacking, the Scallopini al Marsala ($23) lacked heat – the veal and sauce were room temperature to touch and the creamy polenta was bland. Dessert was a delicious dense chocolate cake ($10) swirled with a passion fruit drizzle. Overall, Bella Gioia has potential and great service, but can lack in final det
Venue says: “Voted as one of the top 10 best Italian restaurants in Brooklyn, we invite you to come in and truly taste the difference of Sicily.”