Road Trip: Queens Food Tour with Rick Bedrosian
It takes a lot to get me out of bed before 6 AM these days. A lot. But when Rick Bedrosian suggested we go to New York City for one of his food tours and make a whole day of it, I was totally on board.
Rick is an amazing guy, a TV Food Show host, a musician, a photographer and Food Tour Guide. Most of you no doubt know Rick from one of the many bands he’s been a part of over the years. Silver Chicken, The Fabulous Newports, The McKrells, Hey Jude!, Hair of the Dog, the list goes on and on. We were never in a band together so far as we can remember (of course it was back in the bad old days,… so memory may admittedly be somewhat altered). However, we were in musical configurations with some of the same individuals over the years. And we sure both love food!
Rick has been leading food tours of New York City for years now. Over the years he has come down and wandered these neighborhoods looking for cool little spots to bring people on the tour. Although this particular tour concentrated on Queens, Rick has tours of Manhattan’s hidden gems too.
“I don’t remember how the tours started really. I’ve loved this place since my parents brought me here for the 1965 World’s Fair. I begged my Dad to bring me to a Mets game during our stay at the Fair, I’ve been coming ever since.” – Rick Bedrosian.
The plan is simple: meet him at his house if it’s a smaller tour, or at the bus if it’s a larger group. He drives you down, takes care of all the travel once you’re down there, stuffs you full of amazing food, then drives you home. One price covers all. Want to go on your own with him or do a private group tour, no problem.
Time flew in the car on the way down. A mom and her teenage son charmed us on this trek too, chatting and laughing all the way down and by the time we got to Manhattan we were like old friends. Rick drove us to a parking garage where we deposited the car and took a series of subways to Flushing. The streets were crawling with people, the signs on the street all in Chinese. Rick grabbed us some duck buns to snack on from an amazing little place not far from the subway stop. There was considerably more exotic fare on the menu as well.
We had walked for about three minutes when we stopped again for Spicy Wontons at a tiny place you would normally walk right by called the White Bear. There were six seats in the whole place.
As the men behind the counter called out to him in Chinese, Rick smiled and waved and he said, “I don’t speak any Chinese, but we’ve known each other for a while!”
It’s almost impossible to describe the complexity of what at first appeared to be a simple taste treat. Unlike most ices I’ve had, this had a creaminess and a depth of flavor the others missed. It’s simply the best. Try the Tangerine… Marone!
A minute’s walk from there led us to Mexico. Restaurant La Cienega is a small, extremely affordable Oaxacan restaurant, that will forever be on my list of favorites. It can be found on Corona Ave. practically in the shadow of the Unisphere.
A couple of doors down the street stands Leo’s Latticini, an Italian deli started in Brooklyn by the grandparents of Irene who runs the place after retiring as a first grade teacher in the public elementary school named after her mother. Nancy DeBenedittis, or “Mama” as she was known to everyone in the neighborhood, was the founder of the three shops ( deli, florist, and bakery with a hidden garden patio) together they are known as “Mama’s”. “Mama” passed about 15 years ago, and Irene and her sister Marie ran the place until Marie passed last summer. Now it’s Irene and her sister Carmella at the helm, but mostly Irene as Carmella’s husband is very ill. Bedrosian whispered. “The mozzarella she makes here… there’s NOTHING like it.”
As I stood there in that bakery, listening to Irene thank Rick for coming to the wake of her beloved sister Marie, it was then I realized Rick was a part of this neighborhood, a full fledged adopted native son. With misty eyes she turned to me, took my hand in both of hers and said, “Thank you for coming, you’re always welcome here.” Must have gotten something in my eye too… There are lots of food tours of New York City, but Rick has people taking his tours that are from there. Let that sink in for a minute. The food was spectacular, and there was plenty to go around and then some, but Rick’s stories tying it all together are what set this experience apart.
The ability for those of us living in the Capital District to spread our culinary wings, and experience this much culinary diversity is a unique opportunity. You never know what impact a trip like this will have, but if you try it with your kids or a few friends, they just might wind up like Rick, coming back for decades talking about that time when you brought them down to the city for a taste of life. This world’s a big place, eat like you live here.
Rick Bedrosian’s NYC Food Tours
See Rick’s TV Food show, “I Could Eat!”