Rocco DeFazio's parents moved to Troy from Italy back in the '30s and opened up an imports shop. Today, DeFazio's Pizzeria is run by Rocco and his son, Matt -- and they make just about the best pizza around. I got a chance to know Rocco when we worked together to promote Troy's Little Italy neighborhood, and he’s just as nice as his pies.
They say there are two things you don't want to see made: laws and sausages. I know plenty about the first, but when it comes to sausages, I trust the experts. Gianelli has been making sausages on the north side of Syracuse since the 1940s, and they've been a state-fair staple for nearly as long. I recommend the hot sausage, pepper, and onion sandwich. But don't be a hero: wear the bib, you'll need it.
These days, you can get Dinosaur Bar-B-Que all over New York, but nothing tops the place where it all started, and no trip to Syracuse is complete without a stop. You can order takeout to go, or stick around and enjoy the local flavor.
The Savoy is a third-generation family-owned Italian restaurant opened in 1908 -- so it's safe to say they know their stuff. The East Rome greens and the chicken riggies are delicious, but it's the chicken & artichokes that calls my name. You might as well plan a trip to Rome, because they won't give up that recipe no matter what. Trust me, I've tried.
Run by Buffalo's unofficial "food ambassador" Charlie Roesch, this is a Buffalo institution. Beef on weck, horseradish, side of coleslaw -- it doesn't get better than that.
Bill’s and my favorite neighborhood spot. The only thing better than the coffee and sandwiches is getting to catch up with all the friends who drift in and out all day long.
Harlem welcomed Bill with open arms after he left the White House, and the Red Rooster is one of his beloved go-to restaurants. Where else can you get Swedish meatballs, fried chicken, and "Mac & Greens" under one roof, not to mention plenty of vegetable options? If you're lucky enough to find yourself there on a Sunday, settle in for gospel brunch. Best of all, owner Marcus Samuelsson isn't just a phenomenal chef -- he's a great guy who promotes healthy eating all over New York City.
Flatiron & Midtown East
Fact: Hillstone's veggie burgers are so good, you can't tell the difference. My vegan husband swears by them.
Off the beaten path? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely. If you can't decide between the homemade gelato or ice cream, there's just one answer: get both.
It's been said that it's easier to get a dinner invitation to the White House than a reservation at Rao's. For those determined few who manage to get in, try a little bit of everything -- it all lives up to the legend. And if you're not so lucky, don't lose heart! Whether or not you can get your hands on a table, you can buy Rao's sauces and cookbooks and give it your best shot at home.
Fox Run is one of the Finger Lakes' famous wineries. If you're in the neighborhood, stop in for a glass of some of New York's best riesling, a light lunch, and a beautiful view of Seneca Lake -- you won't be disappointed.
After spending a day visiting the home of Eleanor and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, top off your visit to Hyde Park at the Culinary Institute of America for a meal prepared by the students at one of their fabulous restaurants. Take your pick of just about any world cuisine, and leave room for dessert. One day these students will be the hottest chefs in town and you'll be able to say you knew them when.
Three words: wine ice cream. As a senator, I started something called New York Farm Day. We'd bring producers from all over the state to Washington to show off the best New York has to offer. One year, we had a winemaker set up next to a family-owned ice cream maker. Long story short, someone was having a really good time, and after a few glasses of wine, they poured some cabernet over a bowl of ice cream. Soon everyone was trying it. Today, Mercer's exports its wine ice cream to 15 countries. Chocolate cabernet, strawberry sparkling, raspberry chardonnay, cherry merlot -- you really can't go wrong.
1. DeFazio's Woodfired Pizza266 4th St, Troy
2. Gianelli Sausage111 Gateway Park Dr, Syracuse
3. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que246 W Willow St, Syracuse
4. The Savoy Restaurant255 E Dominick St, Rome
5. Charlie the Butcher's Express295 Main St, Buffalo
6. Lange's Little Store382 King St, Chappaqua
7. Red Rooster310 Lenox Ave, New York
8. Hillstone378 Park Ave S, New York
9. Northern Lights Ice Cream162 Route 28, Inlet
10. Rao's455 E 114th St, New York
11. Fox Run Vineyards670 State Route 14, Penn Yan
12. THE CULINARY INSTITUTE OF AMERICA1946 Campus Dr., Hyde Park
13. Mercer's Dairy13584 State Route 12, Boonville
Troy’s favorite pizzeria serves famous wood-fired pies, homemade pastas, and calzones in a brick storefront that began as an Italian imports shop in the '30s. DeFazio's pizzas (available in 12" and 16" pies) have a thick and doughy crust that's lightly charred with the right amount of air bubbles. They come loaded with a variety of toppings and sauces, and the homemade sausage is a must-try. An extensive selection of linguine and fettucine dishes round out the menu.
Gianelli has been making sausages on the north side of Syracuse since the 1940s, and the tubed meat specialities have been a New York State Fair staple for nearly as long. The Italian sausages are made hot or sweet, in links or patties. The hot links taste best when they're the centerpiece of a beautifully messy sandwich topped with peppers and onions.
Whoever said the best barbecue in the country was south of the Mason-Dixon line hasn't been to this Syracuse-based chain that pays homage to its history as a motorcycle hang. The ribs, pulled pork, and brisket are something to write home about, as are the sauced-up hot wings. Live music, featuring acts from rock and reggae to R&B and classic soul, keeps the honky-tonk charm alive.
A family-owned Italian restaurant that's been open since 1908, The Savoy offers all the classics, from pizzas you can customize to veal, seafood, and authentic pasta dishes, all served in a large, relaxed space suitable for dinner dates and family gatherings alike. The place has a vintage charm, with family photos and school pendant flags lining the walls.
Run by fourth-generation butcher Charlie Roesch, this Buffalo sandwich and lunch destination sets the gold standard for beef on weck, the roast beef-on-kummelweck-roll speciality of Western New York. Everything else on the menu, from grilled sausages to burgers and fried bologna, is pretty darn good as well.
A favorite of Bill and Hillary Clinton, this little neighborhood spot is a Chappaqua institution known for its made-to-order hot and cold sandwiches, desserts, and coffee. The place is simple and inviting with a country vibe where you can expect classic and consistently good deli food. It's a great place to stop in for breakfast and say hello to your Westchester neighbors.
Marc Samuelsson's Red Rooster is the ultimate in comfort food dining. The all-day Harlem restaurant specializes in Scandinavian-meets-soul-food cooking with dishes like Swedish meatballs (based off Samuelsson's grandmother's recipe), fried yardbird, and shrimp and grits. No matter if it's dinner or brunch, the restaurant is almost always packed with a diverse crowd, including out-of-town visitors and New Yorkers of all neighborhoods looking for an energy-fueled meal out.
This upscale chain is a reliable spot for a swanky corporate meal on Park Avenue South. The menu features solid American steak-and-seafood eats, including dinner salads, burgers, and sushi rolls. It's a good place to take a client because it's cool but not stuffy, the menu has something for every dietary preference, and the wine list has a solid mix of high and low pours.
This creamery in the Adirondacks is truly a seasonal institution. Open from Memorial Day through the fall, Northern Lights doles out homemade gelato, and hard and soft-serve ice cream. There are a few tables and benches, and if you stop by at peak afternoon summer hours, you'll probably have to stand. Who cares about seating when you've got a cone of salted caramel crunch gelato in front of you?
One of the country's oldest family-owned restaurants (and still in its original location), Rao's in East Harlem has been serving red sauce Italian classics for over 100 years. The 10-table VIP establishment is notoriously hard/impossible to get into, so if you do score a seat, eat as much fried mozzarella, meatballs, and penne alla vodka as you can. If not, don't worry -- there are Rao's sauces and cookbooks available for purchase so you can DIY at home.
Fox Run in the Finger Lakes offers some of the best Riesling in New York alongside beautiful lake views. The intimate cafe has outdoor terrace seating and a menu that boasts locally sourced ingredients. Flights are $5 and fall into two categories (one is sweet, the other dry) and you get a complimentary "welcome" tasting as well as a wine of your choosing to top it off. Vineyard tours are available, too.
As the training ground for the future top chefs of America, the CIA campus in Hyde Park is home to award-winning restaurants where students put their awe-inspiring skills to work. The restaurants include Bocluse, which serves contemporary French cuisine; American Bounty, which focuses on the ingredients of the surrounding Hudson Valley; and Ristorante Caterina De' Medici, which serves Italian food in a Tuscan-style villa.
Mercer's in Boonville, New York is known for its wine ice cream, which comes in just about every flavor you can imagine -- from chocolate cabernet to red raspberry chardonnay. Stop in for a cone or get a pint (or four) to-go.