As loyal customers and friends, we want to keep you up-to-date with all that’s going on in Nice Guy Tours land. Each month, we’ll provide you with five “Nice” stories:
1. Five Questions With – Each month, we’ll chat with a different business owner or employee from one of our stops.
2. Nice Guy Tourist – When Dante gives tours, he gets to see NYC through the tourists’ eyes. Here, he becomes the tourist and describes what he sees.
3. Nice Guy or Gal of the Month – Each month, we’ll get to know one of our tour guests.
4. “NYCE” Tip – Stick with Dante, he knows these streets.
5. Dear Dante – Send your questions each month, and our CEO will answer them in a way Dear Abby couldn’t.
Read on, and be sure to walk, talk, and eat with us soon! Happy Holidays!
#1 – Five Questions with … Alan Kaufman, owner of The Pickle Guys on the Lower East Side.
Are you ready Alan?
As ready as I’ll ever be.
Tell me about the difference between New, half sour and full sour pickles?
All are pickles start out the same way. Salt, water, pickling spices, and garlic. The amount of time they sit in the barrels determine what kind of pickles they are gonna be. A new pickle is 1-10 days old. A half sour is at least 2 weeks and a full sour at least three months.
Besides the pickles, which are your best seller what is your favorite item?
Yes, you personally.
I would say pineapple and jalapeno stuffed olives.
OK, Alan, who is the nicest person you know?
That would be you, Mr. Nice Guy! (NOTE: I will NOT let anyone get away with this again – I really want to know about the nicest person they know!)
Can you share a tip with visitors to NYC besides, of course, coming to The Pickle Guys?
There’s a lot of good food around here on the Lower East side, have Nice Guy Tours take you on a tour. I would also suggest, what I always suggest, go to the Statue of Liberty because that’s the only way I can get into a woman’s head!
What is your favorite thing about NYC?
The people. What you see and hear about the stereotypes of NYers is not really true. I think people in NY are friendly if you give them a chance.
#2 – Nice Guy Tourist … A Walk Across The Brooklyn Bridge
As a Yonkers guy, I’ve spent a lot of time in the Bronx and Manhattan, but I recently took a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and I was surprised by its beauty, its fascinating history, and also by what I found on the other side. I love that I get to take people around New York on walking food tours, but sometimes I like to be a tourist, too.
About the Brooklyn Bridge: everyone who comes to New York should walk across it at least once. It’s a little over a mile long and the views are spectacular. You can see the Statue of Liberty out in the harbor on a clear day, and there’s a sense of wide open space, which is not an easy feeling to come by in New York.
I found out that the first person to cross the bridge when it was finished in 1883 was a woman named Emily Roebling. On her trip across, she rode in a carriage and carried a rooster, which apparently symbolized victory.
And the bridge was a victory. Even after tragedies and deaths and setbacks, Emily saw to it that the bridge became a reality.
The Brooklyn Bridge was the first steel-wire suspension bridge in the world. Its opening day was presided over by the U.S. president and the governor of New York, and was proclaimed to be the eighth wonder of the world.
But let’s back up a little. Emily’s father-in-law John Roebling was a Prussian immigrant and brilliant civil engineer. He built bridges and buildings, and he had a son named Washington, who was equally gifted. Washington was sent to study at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and then he served in the Civil War where he made a name for himself building suspension bridges for the Army. By 1865 he was promoted to Colonel, and he was married to Emily Warren Roebling.
In 1869, with John’s architectural designs, construction of the Brooklyn Bridge was about to begin and John and Washington were the chief engineers. The effort was unprecedented. About 600 workers—nicknamed “sandhogs”—labored away under dangerous conditions. By the time the bridge was completed, nearly 30 men had died in accidents, explosions, and other mishaps.
The bridge took 14 years from start to finish, and neither father nor son fared very well. Early on, John’s foot was crushed by a boat and he died from tetanus a few weeks later. The massive task of chief engineer was left to Washington.
Years earlier, to prepare for the bridge’s construction, Washington went to Europe to study the technique known as caisson construction. Caissons were large wooden boxes which were sunk into the bottom of the river to allow the men to work inside them, excavating the riverbed, laying granite, and building the bridge. To keep water out, compressed air was pumped into the caissons, which put the men in danger of decompression sickness when they rose back to the surface.
One day Washington was working in a caisson and ended up with this illness, also known as “the bends.” He was left partially paralyzed and too sick to head up the construction progress any longer.
This opened the door for Emily Roebling to step in. With the two chief engineers tragically sidelined, she brought the bridge to its completion. Emily went back and forth from home to construction site, delivering messages to and from Washington, and updating him on progress.
Emily adapted so quickly to the huge task in front of her that she quickly became the chief engineer. At the bridge’s dedication ceremony, Congressman Abram S. Hewitt said she would “thus be inseparably associated with all that is admirable in human nature.”
Time for Lunch
When I exited the bridge on the Brooklyn side, I went in search of some lunch and what I found was yet another family drama.
You can’t miss Grimaldi’s—the pizza restaurant with the line of people out the door every day, rain or shine, even before they open for business.
A couple of doors down is Juliana’s, whose website says that the owner Patsy Grimaldi is New York City’s “most celebrated pizza proprietor.” So—and stay with me for a second, it’s a real saga—Juliana’s is owned by a Grimaldi but Grimaldi’s is not.
Here’s the story. Patsy and his wife Carol opened the original Grimaldi’s on Old Fulton Street. The pies, made with Carol’s homemade fresh mozzarella and cooked in a coal-fired oven, earned them devoted fans.
When Patsy and Carol retired, they sold Grimaldi’s—name and all—to a longtime customer named Frank Ciolli. Ciolli turned Grimaldi’s into a brand. It became a popular chain restaurant, which Patsy believed led to a lower standard of ingredients. Original Grimaldi’s fans complained to Patsy that the pies just weren’t the same, and since Patsy had sold his name, too, he had a reason to be concerned.
In a turn of events, Ciolli was nearly evicted from his Grimaldi’s location. After a dispute with the landlord, he moved a couple doors down to 1 Front Street. Patsy and Carol leased the place Ciolli left vacant and Patsy named it after his mother, Juliana.
Patsy and Carol, to the great delight of their fans, returned to making pizza in their original location and in that original coal-fired oven.
Some say the two are bitter rivals. Ciolli sued Patsy, accusing him of trying to steal back his business, but the case didn’t go anywhere.
In the end, though, the most important question is, who has the best pizza? I couldn’t tell you because I was eating a lobster roll at Luke’s Lobster, but stay tuned. I plan to put Grimaldi’s vs. Juliana’s to a taste test, and you’ll read about it here.
#3 – Nice Gal Of The Month … Sophia Protopapas
Here’s another new feature. Our customers make us who we are, and Sophia Protopapas is one of our most loyal. She’s been on all three of our tours, and her smile is city-blocks wide.
Sophia was born and raised in Queens. She’s lived in Greece for three years. The executive legal secretary has actually been on nine tours! She has brought friends from Staten Island, the Bronx, Queens, and Ecuador. She’s brought her mentee, nice, sister-in-law, and her sister-in-law’s sister who was visiting from Portugal! She even through a Bachelorette Party with Nice Guy Tours!
The favorite thing she’s eaten on the tour is the Artichoke Pizza, and admits “I have been there many, many, many times after my first time because of the tour.” Her favorite tidbit learned on one of our tours is the “Kat’s That’s All” story. “I always remind you to tell that story,” she often tells me.
What she finds most surprising about going on a Nice Guy Tour is how she never gets tired even after almost three hours of walking. She’s also surprised to meet locals as well as out-of-towners on the tour. “Food is a universal language,” she says.
Sophia’s favorite thing about NYC is the “cultural diversity we see in different pockets of neighborhoods throughout the whole city.” Lastly, who’s the nicest person she knows and why? “Well, I can’t narrow it down to just one but the one that comes to mind is my niece, Isabelle Sophia,” she tells us. “She has a heart of gold and wants to help those less fortunate than her. She proudly serves on the Safety Squad at her school, ensuring youngsters get to their classes safely. I heart her.”
#4 – “NYCE” Tip … Hot Dogs
Every month I will share a tip about navigating NYC with you guys. Whether you’re a local or an out-of-towner I’m hoping you can use this info.
You’ve probably heard about NYC hot dogs and always wanted to try one. Most of the vendors you see sell the same product. Some might buy cheaper hot dogs but in my experience, many of them use Sabrett’s brand all-beef hot dogs, which are my favorite.
OK, so here is the tip…Whether you plan on buying a hot dog or not DO NOT just ask for a hot dog. I repeat! Do not just ask for a hot dog.
What question you should ask first? You’ll have to find out in the January newsletter. Stay tuned as I will have a man-on-the-street video expose of the hot dog truck and cart industry that you will not want to miss!
#5 – Dear Dante … Not Quite “Dear Abby”
“I hear the pizza in the city is unbeatable, but I don’t have time to try them all, Where can I get the best slice in New York?”
-Neil P. Los Angeles, CA
Hey Neil, thanks for the question. That’s a tough one – I know some folks fight over the best. MY FAVORITE is the Nonna Maria pizza from Bleecker St. Pizza. We go there on the Greenwich Village tour, so I got you covered. I’m also toying with the idea of a tour titled “The History of Pizza,” so keep an eye out for that soon.