A Culinary Tour of New York City – Best International Cuisine

Food & Wine — By on February 16, 2011 at 12:51 pm

By Kayleigh Minicozzi
LG Contributor

New York City, historic destination for huddled masses seeking refuge, earned the nickname “the melting pot” because of its vast ethic, religious and all around diversity. With more than 170 languages spoken between the peak of Wakefield in the Bronx, to the tip of Coney Island, the big apple and its boroughs offer an overload of cultural experiences and are a foodie’s paradise.

When money’s tight but you still have the jet-set itch, forget trying to travel the world in 80 days and attempt globetrotting in a NY minute. All you need is a metro card and an empty stomach and you can experience culture and cuisine from across the globe.

Although there are many more historic neighborhoods in NYC you can add to your itinerary, I decided to attempt an around the world in 80 hour challenge of my own. My enriching and delicious discoveries are highlighted below.

Italy

Italian Restaurant NYCImmersion Location: Café Reggio – West Village, Manhattan

When most people think of indulging on Italian delicacies in New York, they instantly recall images of little men in penguin suits lining Mulberry Street. Although I’ve enjoyed my fair share of cannoli at Ferrara Bakery in Little Italy, I recently stumbled upon this hidden gem in the West Village.

Cafe Reggio has been around since 1927 and when you taste their cappuccino you’ll know why. The shop’s original owner claims to have first introduced the beverage to America and they still make the steaming cups from the original machine brought over from Italy in 1902. The atmosphere is rich and elegant and transports you to Florence during the Renaissance. This might be because most of the artwork and furniture are originals from the period.

I recommend bringing a book and cuddling in on the famous “Medici Family” bench. If the beautiful atmosphere doesn’t woo you, the prices will. I snagged a spinach and cheese crepe and a cappuccino for under $10. Check out their full menu here: http://www.cafereggio.com/menu

Korea

Immersion Location: Kunjip Restaurant – Korean Town, Midtown Manhattan

In the shadow between the Empire State Building and Macy’s is a small section of 32nd street that sparkles with neon lights. Casually know as K-Town this little section of street is packed with exciting opportunities to leave the hustle and bustle of midtown and experience a whole new kind of chaos. Korean town may only be a few blocks but they use the space wisely, packing in basement pastry shops and rooftop karaoke.

Kunjip is a popular spot for locals and visitors and it’s in this tiny restaurant where I felt a whole different kind of midtown chaos. Because of their amazing food and veteran reputation, the restaurant is always busy and in order to keep people from leaving, they have you wait in line inside wrapping throughout the aisles of the restaurant.

Graceful waiters carry enormous trays of hot food above their heads and over the crowds, making the experience a little like dinner and a show. If you’ve never eaten in K-Town I recommend attempting the Korean BBQ. Raw meat and boiling oil pots are brought to your table and you get to be a part of the experience. A number of after dinner options are available all within one building or right next store including tasty Korean pastry shops, Karaoke or massive billiard halls. The overall vibe of K-Town is rushed and hurried but fight the urge to get frustrated, it’s all a part of the experience. Learn more about Kunjip here: www.kunjip.net

Poland

Polish RestaurantImmersion Location: Lomzynianka – Greenpoint, Brooklyn

I’ve always thought of Greenpoint as a Mecca to hipsters. Anytime I imagined hanging out there I pictured mason jars full of wine and guys in plaid and skinny jeans, but I was surprised when I found out that the area has historic Polish roots. In fact a significant sized population still resides in Greenpoint and you can find everything from bakeries to bookstores with a Polish theme. Lomzynianka, don’t even ask me how to pronounce it, is a local legend and serves up a classic Polish experience only a few subway stops from Manhattan.

What I loved most about this place was I felt like I was sitting in a Polish babcia’s living room waiting for family dinner. The dinning room is modest in size and you have a direct view into the kitchen action. The tables are covered in plastic and fake plants and deer stag heads don the walls. It’s simple and perfect! Weather your poison is porgies, blitzes, kielbasa or goulash, everything on the menu is authentic and delicious. Local Polish history and Lomzynianka menu here: www.lomzynianka.com

Greece

Immersion Location: Agnanti Meze – Astoria, Queens

I’d be kidding myself if I thought you could flawlessly replicate the beautiful blue waters and ancient architecture of Greece in this northern borough. The beautiful weather, quaint fishing towns and white stone hilltop homes are a sight you can only experience by visiting the old country. What Astoria does offer is a highly concentrated area of historic Greek families tapping into their roots and setting up amazing restaurants with authentic cuisine and entertainment.

There are a number of great options in this area for rooftop dinning, tsifteteli dancing or a quick shot of ouzo. The interesting charm about this area is you may come for a stereotypical glance into the Greek culture through food or drink but end up delighted by the friendly conversations and personal hometown stories from locals. Agnanti Meze is one of my favorites because of its simple and endearing environment. It isn’t wildly over the top but rather feels like a small town hangout in the cliffs of Santorini. Their menu gives you the option to have a ton of little samples to taste your way through different regions of Greece with each dish. Make reservations now: www.agnantimeze.com

Brazil

Immersion Location: Impanema – Little Brazil, West Midtown Manhattan

Brazilian RestaurantMany people don’t even know a haven to the state of beautiful women exists in the big apple, but I was thankful when a friend introduced me to the area. On West 45th street between 5th Avenue and Avenue of the Americas, you can see the trappings of the green-and-gold native flag dotting restaurants and bars facades and you know you’ve found it. The area has newsstands with Brazilian publications and specialized barbers, that all seem to cater to a local population of Brazilians.

When I was introduced to “Rua de Brasilieros” it was in a small restaurant called Ipanema. The dishes were made in traditional Brazilian style, not available in most other neighborhoods. Even if you’re not interested in dinner, I suggest you stop at the bar and order a Caipirina. The drink made from Cachaca, lime and sugar is the perfect reward for a long day of work and can easily transport you to a beachfront resort in Rio on a cold New York day.

Drink and dinner menu here: www.ipanemanyc.com/ipanema

Jamaica

Immersion Location: Fort Negril Restaurant – Wakefield, Bronx

It may be at the last stop on the on the 2 train but the trip to Wakefield is worth the commute and is cheaper than a plane ticket to the islands. This northern Bronx neighborhood is rich in Jamaican and Caribbean heritage and has a number of fast food and sit down restaurants highlighting this exciting cuisine. Sure you can get a quick lunch of jerk chicken or curry from a food stand in Time Square but the casual hot spots in Wakefield pack a punch of flavor and authenticity.

One favorite in the area is Fort Negril on Nereid Ave. The restaurant has a number of native dishes but frequent visitors love to sample the oxtails and curried goat. Call ahead for restaurant hours and plan accordingly with a train commute: (718) 324-3434

For more neighborhood recommendations feel free to check out some of the walking tours available in NYC for a nominal fee through these sites: www.bigonion.com, www.foodsofny.com, and www.walkingtoursmanhattan.com

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