Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Lost in Manhattan, Found in Hoboken

January 22, 2007

Last week I took the opportunity of a break in the weather -- Friday was the last day of temps in the 40's, with predictions of a drop to the teens over the weekend -- to plan an excursion to Manhattan. I know how to get there, so I thought I'd spend a few hours exploring before confining myself to house arrest out of the cold.

I knew the first stop out of Hoboken is Christopher Street in the West Village. This is my old stomping ground. I lived on West 11th in the 1980's.

I was on Christopher Street 25 minutes after leaving my door. Where, exactly I wasn't sure. Even when I came out of the; subway tunnel, it took me a while to orient myself by walking up Greenwich and looking for old hangouts. Somebody told me that Chumley's was closed; I wanted to see for myself, but couldn't remember exactly how to get there from where I was. I walked on West 4th, up to Abingdon Square, browsed in store windows, and realized it was getting near lunchtime as I smelled the Italian food being sold all around me.

But I hadn't come to Manhattan for Italian food. There's far too much Italian food I haven't tried in Hoboken. The more I wandered aimlessly the more I realized I really wanted to go home -- to Hoboken. I promised myself a slice of extra-crispy from Benny Tudino's when I got back.

Finding the train that would take me there was another story. At last I went down the subway tunnel across from the one that brought me, even though it didn't have the magic New Jersey code "PATH" but instead said, "Downtown trains." I let about three trains whiz past before I looked on the tracks for something that said Hoboken or PATH trains. Then I decided, since I realized I'd have to go out of the station to find a PATH station, to take the train downtown to the World Trade Center where I could transfer to the PATH line.

Lotsa luck. I missed the station that would transfer me to the line that goes to the WTC because I couldn't understand the blurry announcements that were transmitted at every stop. I found myself at Rector St., which I knew to be the next to last stop in Manhattan. When I came out of the station at Rector St. there was a sign directing me to Ground Zero. (Actually, it was an old sign. It said "World Trade Center.") I followed its arrow.

There is something infinitely moving about walking around down near Ground Zero. I felt myself choking up as I looked at the sky where the towers used to be and thought of those insane men led by that monster who has done so much damage to the hearts and souls of me and my countrymen. Still, I was looking for a PATH station. I forged onward.

I asked a man who looked like he'd know. He pulled the earbuds out of his ears and asked me where I wanted to go.


He gave me directions, right across from the Century 21 retail emporium, so I walked over there and decided to give a quick glance at the inside of the store. It was crowded and hard to navigate so I promised myself to return soon. In the meantime, I wanted to get home.

I went into the subway and spent the ride thinking of Benny Tudino's. Also, I would walk past Carlo's Bake Shop and buy myself a cannoli for all my troubles. Also, after I'd cooled my heels at home for a while, I'd set out on an excursion to find Fiore's, the deli said to have the best homemade mozzarella in Hoboken, if not the world.

I hadn't been inside Carlo's before, but I will again. So many goodies I couldn't decide, but I stuck with my resolve to but one cannoli. ("Cannolo?") The cannoli cones lay empty in the case, dozens of them, some covered in chocolate. I always start with the basics, so I chose one plain one. The young lady behind the counter reached into the refrigerated drawer and pulled out a pastry bag and filled it before my eyes. I vowed to wait until I had gotten home, after the pizza slice, to eat it. A paragon of self-control.

At Benny Tudino's I sprang for pepperoni on my slice, but ordered it extra crispy as I had been instructed to do by Jeff Faria, a Hoboken expert. Excellent!

Then I went home, checked emails and phone messages, and ate my cannoli. It was as good a cannoli as I've ever had. I must confess I haven't had many. But I'm now experienced enough to recommend the Italian treat, especially fresh. Even more especially fresh from Carlo's in Hoboken.

Then, later, the final project: To try mozzarella from Fiore's. I walked across town on 4th Street, passing the office of a dentist whom I'll go make an appointment with today, and the hospital where I'll go to get names of physicians to sign on with. Then I turned uptown to Fiore's, halfway in the block, and said to the Asian man behind the counter, "I hear you've got good homemade mozzarella here." He pointed out a huge chunk, tied up with a topknot, and I said I'd take half of it. Then I saw some capers on a shelf, and knew I was in need of capers, so I asked how much.

"Fiore!" he called, and a man came from the back.

"How much for these?"

Fiore went to a list and read from it, Petite Capers...$3.25.

I took my mozzarella -- they call it mutz here -- and my capers home, feeling very "in" and very comfortable that I was now in the club for sure.

I have this to report about the remarkable mutz. Fiore's mozzarella is lightly coated with something I always have to add myself -- salt. Its texture is perfectly raggy, with a nice chew, its taste milky. I think it's that coating of crunchy salt that sets it apart and above the usual.

With my day of being lost in Manhattan and finding myself in Hoboken, I was ready for a weekend of barely leaving my apartment. Today it's nice and warm again; it's predicted to go as high at 38° and I'm going to find that dentist.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a food lover's paradise. The friend I mentioned to you before who knew all about Henry George etc also knows Hoboken. She described it as a very "metropolitan" town, much changed in the past decade or so.

Maybe one of these days . . . .

Katharine said...

I myself love the food in Hoboken. I keep restaurant reviews and such on my blog - - and am currently in the middle of a little pizza tour about town.