One of the best parts of Little Italy? You guessed it: its food.
When Italian immigrants first arrived in the U.S., they had to make do with the ingredients they had on hand. Restaurant owners were also looking to cater to American palates. Traditional Italian recipes slowly transformed, and the cuisine became the hybrid Italian-American one it is now.
While some food items found in Little Italy are traditional and can be found in Italy, others are specific to North America.
When the food retailer Eataly first opened in the Flatiron district back in 2010, Little Italy’s business owners were definitely not pleased. They began losing the remainder of their Manhattan clientele, who were increasingly sourcing their mozzarella and olive oil from the 50,000-square-foot food emporium instead.
But Little Italy continues to be a spot for Italian fare. Each year, the famous Feast of San Gennaro spills across the district — celebrating the life of Saint Januarius, the patron saint of Naples — with piles and piles of sweets and sizzling sausages.
Besides pizza, pasta, calzone, gelato, and cheese, here are some of the foods you’ll likely come across when exploring the festival’s many stalls:
Sausage and peppers: a trifecta of Italian pork sausage, bell peppers, and onions served in a sandwich bun, and one of the festival’s absolute bestsellers
Zeppole: originating from Italy’s Campania region, these deep-fried dough balls incite nostalgic carnival memories
Cannoli: the famous Sicilian pastry is made up of a fried dough shell that is stuffed with sweet ricotta cream
Arancini: staples in Sicily and New York alike, ****these ****baseball-sized rice balls are coated with bread crumbs and are deep-fried
Parms: the tried-and-trusted parm takes on many forms: meatball, chicken, or eggplant
Torrone: a nougat and a traditional Italian Christmas treat, the seasonal dessert’s name references the “Il Torrione” tower in the Northern Italian city of Cremona
Braciole: beef roulades that are stuffed with parmesan and bread crumbs and then braised in tomato sauce
Porchetta: a late-night street food favorite Italy-wide, the roast pork is typically served in a sandwich bun
Fried Oreos: hardly Italian, but a Feast of San Gennaro staple nevertheless!
Eataly or not, Little Italy will always have a specific place in Manhattan’s heart. Cue Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.”
Click for some great Italian food in New York City!
Did you know that California has the largest Thai population in the United States? The city of San Francisco specifically is home to hundreds of Thai restaurants, as well as talented home cooks creating both traditional and modern versions of classic dishes. Check out the Thai dishes worth tasting in San Francisco.
Pad Kra Pao
Pad kra pao is one of Thailand’s most famous street foods. It’s traditionally made with chicken and served on a bed of hot rice and fried eggs, but variations abound. Nowadays, you can find versions made with tofu.
The origins of this classic comfort food can be traced back more than 40 years, and the use of fresh basil in Thai cuisine long before that — between 2,400-2,500 BC. This dish gets its well-deserved fame thanks to how quick and easy it is to make. Pad Kra Pao has a unique taste and typically will use pork over chicken. That said, any variation will still feature the delicious flavors the Thai basil stir-fry is known for. If you plan on making this, start by cooking garlic and chilies in a wok, then add your minced pork to stir-fry. Add oyster sauce, fish sauce, soy sauce, and sugar to the wok, finishing off with a fresh handful of fragrant Thai holy basil. Stir for just a few more seconds before switching off the heat and mixing it with rice. Serve with sliced cucumbers, fried egg, and fish sauce for dipping!
For those around San Francisco pressed for time but crave homecooked Pad Kra Pao, head over to Shef.com! This online marketplace features talented local chefs ready to whip up your favorite dishes from different cuisines, including Thai! Shef Issara has been cooking since childhood and possesses restaurant experience that honed his skills in the kitchen. Today, he whips up different Thai dishes as a way to share his culture and make people happy through delicious dishes like his Khao Gra Prow Clook, a unique fried rice version of this beloved dish.
One of the first dishes that would come to mind upon the mention of Thai comfort food is likely Pad Thai. It’s one of the most popular Thai dishes both in Thailand and the US. It’s a stir-fried rice noodle dish you can find in many street food stalls in Thailand and San Francisco-based restaurants. It features a sweet, savory, and spicy sauce with nutty, tangy flavors!
We can thank Plaek Phibunsongkhram (Phibun) for creating Pad Thai between 1938-1942. He was a military officer who dethroned Thailand’s monarchy, becoming Prime Minister soon after. During World War II, the country suffered a rice shortage, which prompted Phibun to use this as a nationalistic propaganda opportunity to unite the people. As a result, Pad Thai was dubbed the national dish of Thailand.
It was said that Phibun’s family cooked Pad Thai before it became Thailand’s national dish. Others say there was a national competition where Pad Thai won. While the exact origins of Pad Thai aren’t widely known, one thing’s for sure – Pad Thai was made to protect rice resources as noodles were cheaper and more economical to make. To make Pad Thai, simply cook flat rice noodles then make a flavorful sauce by combining fish sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, tamarind paste, hot sauce, and peanut butter (optional). Afterward, cook your chosen meat or tofu with veggies, followed by beaten eggs. Add the noodles, sauce, peanuts, and bean sprouts to your pan, tossing everything. Garnish your Pad Thai with cilantro, chopped green onions, lime wedges, and crushed peanuts.
Are you around San Francisco and thinking of ordering in? Shef Pia is a qualified Thai chef who grew up in North-East Thailand, learning how to cook authentic Thai dishes from scratch thanks to her family. Her dishes consist of classic Thai dishes with as much authenticity and minimally processed ingredients. She can whip up a delicious Pad Thai, this time a vegetarian version to accommodate all palates.
Tom Yum is another popular Thai soup recipe best served on cold nights because of its hot and sour flavors. This dish is usually cooked with shrimp, and a deeply rich broth made with fragrant spices and herbs like lemongrass, kaffir, galangal, & lime leaves. Tom Yum isn’t a well-documented recipe, which was likely passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth, given the country’s oral traditions. It is said that it originated in Central Thailand as there were many fishing opportunities for shrimp in the Chao Phraya River. The first written record of Tom Yum is in 1888 but used snakehead fish. In 1897, the use of shrimp in Tom Yum was documented by an American missionary. But over time, Tom Yum grew in popularity and different varieties were made, changing the ingredients but still maintaining the iconic flavors it was first known for.
If you plan on making Tom Yum, start by pouring chicken stock into a deep cooking hot, allowing it to simmer over medium-high heat. Add minced lemongrass to the stock, letting it boil for 5-6 minutes and the fragrance starts to infuse. Reduce the heat then add garlic, mushrooms, lime leaves, and chili, letting it simmer for another five minutes. Then, add your shrimp and chosen vegetables, simmering for another 5-6 minutes. Finally, turn down the heat and add fish sauce and coconut milk. Pour your delicious soup into a bowl and garnish with fresh cilantro & lime wedges. Prepare yourself for a warm bowl of pure comfort!
When craving homemade Tom Yum, you can always order from Shef Pia, who values authenticity and rustic Thai flavors in her recipes. She grew up in rural North-East Thailand, the Isan region (Thailand’s largest region), which is where she learned to cook! Growing up, her mother and aunts taught her to cook Thai dishes without using processed ingredients, ensuring freshness in her classic Thai meals. Her Tom Yam tofu soup is a vibrant dish that packs in a ton of spice & traditional flavors of Thailand!
Juicy fried chicken and fluffy cornbread dipped in jambalaya… are just a few of many iconic Southern dishes. Southern cuisine originated as homemade cooking in the rural South, using inexpensive and local ingredients like cornmeal, rice, molasses, pork, and the like. Today, Southern soul food restaurants have taken San Francisco by storm, attracting a diverse community because of the comfort & decadence it offers in every bite. Here are some of the popular dishes you can try and enjoy in San Francisco if you’re looking to get a taste of the South!
Southern Fried Chicken
Southern Fried Chicken is one of the most iconic dishes in Southern cuisine. Crispy pieces of hot fried chicken coated in a crunch flour batter. In your first bite, you’ll be met with a signature loud crunch, followed by juicy meat drippings rolling down your chin. While fried chicken is emblematic of Southern cuisine, its origins are said to have been influenced by Scotland. It is said that the Scottish might have brought their fried chicken recipe upon settling in Southern US in the 1700s. While we have Scotland to thank for the original recipe, it is Southern US cooking we can thank for the transformation of fried chicken as a symbol of comfort & soul food.
Many say the secret ingredient to amazing Southern Fried Chicken is buttermilk and a unique blend of seasonings in the flour mixture batter. The buttermilk gives the chicken a richer flavor while breaking down its proteins for a tender and flavorful result. If you want to try making buttermilk fried chicken, start by tossing chicken pieces in your favorite seasonings. Afterward, stir in the buttermilk until all the chicken pieces are evenly coated, then let your ingredients refrigerate for six hours or overnight. Prepare your flour mixture by mixing flour, cayenne, paprika, salt, pepper, and other preferred seasonings in a dish. Remove the chicken pieces from the buttermilk to dredge in the flour mixture and immediately fry in a large Dutch oven filled with oil for ten minutes on each side. Place your fried chicken pieces on a cooling rack and allow it to sit for ten minutes. Serve and enjoy!
No time to make fried chicken? No problem! If you’re in San Francisco and craving this comfort food, try Shef Nikki’s Southern Spicy Fried Chicken! Growing up in the Midwest, Shef Nikki grew up learning to cook thanks to her wonderful Southern mother and grandmother. You can expect a ton of delicious soul food dishes from her, ranging from her crispy, juicy Southern fried chicken to her soul-comforting jambalaya.
Jambalaya comes from Louisiana with its historical origins rooted in Spain and France. This one-pot dish has different variations depending on who’s cooking, but generally, consists of rice, meat, and vegetables. It’s a complete meal in one pot, known for its affordable, filling, and flavorful features! Jambalaya is said to have been influenced by Paella, a Spanish rice dish, but with added influences from the French, African, & Creole cultures. Many believe its creation stems from Louisiana, though its exact creator is unknown. Through years time, jambalaya has become a staple in church fairs, weddings, family reunions, and other huge events. Over time, the recipe has evolved, and each household has its own take on this Southern classic.
There are two major variations of Jambalaya, which are:
Creole Jambalaya uses tomatoes as a base, which lends its alternative name, red jambalaya. To make this, cook onions, peppers, and celery with your chosen meat or seafood. Afterward, add tomatoes, stock, and rice to boil before being left to simmer until the rice has absorbed the stock. The result is a tomato-rich stew that infuses deep flavors from all the simmering ingredients.
The second variation is Cajun Jambalaya which does not use tomatoes in its recipe. To make this, you must first cook the meat caramelized through. Then, you add your vegetables to the same pot, followed by rice and stock — allowing it to simmer until the rice has absorbed the stock. This cooking method results in a caramel brown-colored Jambalaya and a smokier flavor as the meat was rendered and cooked until it infuses with the broth.
If you’d like to try this amazing Southern recipe, Shef Michael is a Louisiana native, born and raised in a true Cajun country. He’s been cooking since he was a child, specializing in Southern cuisine. Thanks to his cooking experience and life in the deep South, his dishes are authentic with passion & soul. His Cajun chicken and sausage Jambalaya is a local hit — packed with fresh andouille sausages, chicken, and aromatic spices for that flavorful Southern kick.
Southern Chili is a delightfully spicy stew said to have originated in Texas. In 1850, Everette Lee DeGolyer, Dallas oil executive & historian, suggested that chili was a popular campfire fare among cowboys on cattle trails and gold-seekers. There are many other theories on how chili came to be, but regardless of its origins, it became a Texas staple in the 1860s. Chili then became extremely popular all across the US, making its way west to San Francisco. Today, it’s a popular dish in many San Francisco restaurants, which many people order during the cold winters to warm the soul.
The process of making chili is quite simple. Place fresh ground beef in a large pan with garlic and onions, sweating over medium heat. Drain excess fat and add tomato sauce and your choice of aromatics. Allow it to simmer for an hour, draining occasionally to keep the chili clean & clear. Afterward, mix corn flour and water in a separate bowl, then add it to your chili, stirring until it’s reached your desired consistency. As the last step, add a can of beans and allow your chili to simmer for ten more minutes, then top it off with fresh shredded cheese & serve!
If you’re a bit short on time but have cravings to try Southern Chili in San Francisco — Shef Brittni saves the day! Home cooking is her passion, and she’s learned the Southern style of cooking from her grandmother. Her meals only use locally sourced ingredients and are seasoned with love & known to come in large portions! Shef Brittni makes an appetizing ground beef chili dish topped with a large handful of cheese and a dash of chili pepper to bring on the spice!