Tasty travels: New to New York

Melissa Treolo

Just as an old Cole Porter song goes, I happen to like New York. The sights, the smells, the insane amount of people, even the city-wide layer of dirt that covers my shoes and forces me to take two showers a day – this is the stuff that thrills my heart and puts the same kind of butterflies in my stomach that I get when I’m around a boy that, well, puts butterflies in my stomach.

Yes, I happen to like New York.

What I do not happen to like, however, is the food. With all due respect to anyone who happened to prepare food for me on my recent trip, I was ill-equipped to handle the severe disappointment that came with eating in New York City.

New York City hot dogs, for example. Having only movies and hearsay to go by, I was expecting a huge, juicy piece of processed meat enveloped in a soft, warm bun. This is the kind of hot dog that would satisfy my hunger and would be topped with the perfect combination of ketchup and mustard (not too much, not too little).

I was not expecting the smallest of small hot dogs that tasted like any prepackaged, Oscar Mayer job I could pick up at my local supermarket. And, of course, after eating one hot dog I wanted another one because I was still so damn hungry! I couldn’t say whether I got the perfect blend of toppings or not because I was too busy concentrating on where the closest ATM might be so I could get more hot dog money.

I walked into my first New York pizzeria thinking, “This will be perfect.” Rows of delectable-looking pizzas encased in glass with employees standing over them yelling “Next!” and “Keep it movin’ people!” I smiled and sweetly said, “Cheese please,” my mouth salivating at the thought of what was to come.

And then I had my first bite.

It tasted like a huge slice of cheese-covered cardboard, with a little sauce thrown on for flavor. I ate pizza about three times in New York and, though some places were better than others, I am still trying to get the taste of cardboard out of my mouth.

Even after all that, I was sure that I had hit the mark with New York Italian food. I’m Italian, I like Italian food and I am in a city that is known for making great Italian food. How can this go wrong? I should have thought to ask for my cheese ravioli on a bed of plate, not bread.

As I began eating, I saw what looked like pieces of bread. On closer inspection, I found a whole piece of white bread sitting directly underneath my pile of cheese-filled raviolis (which, by the way, didn’t taste like the great Italian food I was expecting). I was told by others at my table the bread is for grease consumption, but I just chalked it up to “It’s a New York thing” and shoved my plate away.

I do hope that nobody takes this column as some kind of advice on what to eat and what not to eat in New York. I should have prefaced it by saying that I am the pickiest eater you’ll ever meet and my appetite is comparable to that of a five-year-old. Case in point: The best thing I ate in New York? Grilled cheese and french fries.