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.