Worth the Wait: Shopping at Di Palo’s Fine Foods in Little Italy

Last year we started a new tradition the day before Thanksgiving. You might think it’s a little crazy because it involves waiting in line for two to three hours. Despite that long wait, we did it again this year – and we’ve already made plans to do it next year as well. What could be worth such a wait, you might ask? Shopping at Di Palo’s Fine Foods in Little Italy, of course!

Di Palo’s opened on the corner of Grand and Mott Streets in Little Italy in 1925, and the founders’ grandchildren, Lou, Sal, and Marie are the heart of the store today. The experience begins as you walk in the door and take a number. This time, we pulled number 51, and the number that had just been called out was number 17. Regulars know that there’s plenty of time, and some leave to shop elsewhere in the neighborhood for a while before coming back; I stay in the store to explore my options and people-watch. As you look around, it doesn’t seem that there are too many people in the shop. Maybe the wait won’t be so long this time? As only two numbers are called in the next 20 minutes, I realize I need to adjust my expectations of time and settle in for the long haul.

In a time when we are often impatient, seeking instant gratification, shopping at Di Palo’s reminds us to slow down and enjoy life. Customers strike up conversations as they wait and eavesdrop on the instructions Sal is giving to a young woman buying prosciutto. “Don’t fold the prosciutto; instead, slightly twist it like this to create a small rosette.” The delicious smell of cheese permeates the air. On one side there’s a large case filled with olives, artichoke hearts, antipasti and the like. Large, round loaves of bread and wheels of parmesan cheese are stacked on top.

More cheeses, olive oils, panettone, and numerous other Italian-made items fill shelves and counters, with salami and even more cheese hanging from above.

There are three chairs – all in high demand – for those who wish to sit while they wait.

Finally, Sal calls out “Number 51!” Two and a half hours in, and it’s our turn!

So what makes this long wait so worth it? Once your number is called, it is like you are the only customer in the store. Each Di Palo family member treats their customers like treasured guests. They won’t rush you as you make decisions. They will offer advice if it’s asked for (and sometimes even when it’s not), and their knowledge is encyclopedic. You can go into the store knowing exactly what you want, but my favorite thing to do is let them choose for me. Tell them what you are buying it for, how many people you wish to serve, and what your budget is, and they will come through with great suggestions every time.

They make their own mozzarella and bocconcini (mini mozzarella balls), and Sal suggests the bocconcini. (We eat it later with some of Di Palo’s homemade pesto, the freshness of the basil a wonderful foil for the creaminess of the cheese.) Perhaps a couple of other, firmer cheeses? Sal hands us slices of each of his suggestions, all delicious in different ways. We choose two, one a 6-month old sheep’s milk cheese, and a drier, aged cow’s milk cheese. Would we like some meat? Perhaps some mortadella studded with pistachios? Slices of salty prosciutto di parma, so thin they are almost translucent? Sopressata, a robustly-flavored salami? Sal know where each product comes from in Italy, and with each suggestion he hands us another slice to taste. Some colorful mixed olives round out our choices.

We leave the store satisfied, having had a snack of meat and cheese samples and choosing what we need for our celebratory holiday meal. As we head out, Sal sends us next door to the family wine shop, where he tells us his nephew Mike will help us choose the perfect red wine to complement to our recent purchases. (And so he did!) Our holiday meal was delicious, made even more so by Sal and Mike’s thoughtful suggestions.

Wish to visit Di Palo’s Fine Foods yourself? I definitely recommend it! It’s not nearly as busy if you aren’t shopping the day before a major holiday, but you should always be prepared to wait a while. It’s always worth it – once your turn comes, you, like me, will enjoy the personal experience. The store is located at 200 Grand Street in Manhattan’s Little Italy.


One Last Look at NYC’s Holiday Windows: Bloomingdale’s

So, I know I’m late posting this, but I really wanted to show everyone some photos I took of Bloomingdale’s department store windows during the 2016 holiday season. The theme for Bloomingdale’s windows this year was “Light,” and artists were invited to create chandeliers embodying that theme. During the exhibition, the chandeliers were auctioned off and the money donated to a children’s charity.

So here are the chandeliers, reflecting the artists’ very different approaches to the common theme. This first one is titled “Sparkle,” by artist Allison Eden.


The close-up shot shows the three-dimensional details of both the chandelier and the tile mosaic aquatic background.


This next one is titled “Brilliant,” by artist Susanne Bartsch.



This mirrored chandelier is titled “Luminescence,” by artist Sean Augustine March.


Here’s “Moon Glow,” by artist Abby Modell.


This window was titled “Aura,” a collaboration between artists Erika DeVries and Jonah Meyer.


In this window, artist Inma Barrero utilized clay, porcelain, metal, glass, and wood to create “Reflections.” And this one really did reflect the light, making it challenging to photograph!


With that last photo, I’ll officially close the door on the 2016 holiday season – but I can hardly wait to see what the department stores do in 2017!

Reflective Accident: NYC Architecture and Bergdorf Goodman Windows

I hadn’t had the chance to check out Bergdorf Goodman’s holiday windows, so after Christmas dinner we headed off to check them out. I wanted to get photos of the windows to post on the blog, as last year’s Bergdorf Goodman windows were spectacular. (You can see last year’s windows here.) According to David Hoey, Senior Director of Visual Presentation at Bergdorf Goodman, “The windows are like magical realist versions of natural history museum dioramas.”

Unfortunately, there was still too much daylight when I took my photos. As a result of the sunlight, I wasn’t able to capture clear photos of the window displays. But when I later looked at the photos on my computer, I found some unexpected results – reflections of neighboring buildings partially obscuring what is behind the glass. I thought that the results made for some interesting images. You’ll have to tell me what you think!







Wonder what the windows look like without the reflections? Click here to see Bergdorf Goodman’s reveal of this year’s holiday windows.

Lord & Taylor’s Holiday Windows 2016: Enchanted Forest

New York City is a magical place during the holiday season, and those seeking activities to put themselves in the Christmas spirit can find endless activities to enjoy. Of course there are the Christmas trees at locations like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Natural History, which I’ve featured before here and here. But both New York City residents and visitors alike always look forward to the department store holiday windows, wondering what each store’s them will be for the current season. One of my favorites this year is Lord & Taylor’s Enchanted Forest, a delightful set of windows that appeals to both adults and children. Here are some of the photos I took of the Enchanted Forest recently.










If you are in New York City for the holidays, I encourage you to check the Lord & Taylor windows out. They are even better in person, especially with the animation and moving figures! Lord & Taylor is located on Fifth Avenue between 38th and 39th Streets, just a short distance from Bryant Park and the iconic New York Public Library building. It is easily accessible by subway or bus.

Union Square Holiday Market

I recently had the chance to visit the Union Square Holiday Market, one of the markets organized by Urbanspace. Of all of the holiday markets I’ve visited this year, this one is the largest – there are more than 100 vendors in all. There are many New York City-based makers at the Union Square Holiday Market, as well as some really neat items from outside the city as well. This article will focus primarily on the local makers.

Each holiday market I’ve visited has new, unique artists and artisans for me to discover. One of the first stalls I explored at the Union Square Holiday Market was that of Brooklyn-based DeLong Ceramics. Artisan Denise DeLong creates beautiful ceramic tiles and Christmas ornaments, with most having a New York City theme.


I loved this tile. The colors somehow remind me of the city on a rainy evening.


And I also love this one, with its subway setting. (You know me, I can’t resist things that are in some way related to New York City’s public transportation system!)


I also discovered Insiders1, a Brooklyn-based company that creates bags and accessories incorporating urban photography. If you are looking for a creative gift with iconic New York images, Insiders1 is a great place to start.




Citybitz also draws from New York City for design inspiration, as well as materials in some circumstances. Owner and designer Joan Huggard combines metal, glass, resin, photography, and other materials to create classic personal accessories such as cuff links, cigarette cases, and flasks. I loved this collection that draws from the iconic Penguin mosaics found in the 5th Ave./59th St. R Station.


Another collection, called Manhattan’s Makeup, also caught my eye. These pieces incorporate rust and paint chips from New York City landmarks, including the Manhattan Bridge and the 2nd Avenue Subway Station. The colors are vibrant, just as the city is.


I was enchanted by the cloth dolls of Hazel Village. Made of organic cotton, each doll is delightful, and you can buy a variety of costumes and outfits to dress them in. These dolls are guaranteed to inspire a child’s imagination.



There was something so special about artist Eve Devore’s owl prints. Her business card asks, “Curious what you would look like as an owl?” The prints are colorful, magical, and full of imagination.


I love this Empire Owl:


And I’ve decided that this is how I would look as an owl. This is Java Bean Owl:


Even though I was looking primarily for makers based in New York City, I couldn’t resist the special, whimsical poem mobiles of poziepoems. But although poziepoems’ owners now live in South Africa, they started their business when they were living in New York City, so they still fit my overall theme. Each poem extends over several pieces of wood, descending one from the other. The poem changes as the breeze causes the pieces to turn, as alternative words and phrases are on the other side. They’re such a unique gift idea, and I fell in love with them immediately.


One of the things that makes the Union Square Holiday Market fun is that its location attracts musicians as well, like the one in this photo:


And if you get hungry or thirsty as you shop, there are plenty of food and drink options available as well. I had a luxurious cup of hot chocolate from Brooklyn chocolatier Nunu Chocolates. Yum! (Their salt caramels would make a good stocking stuffer, by the way.)


As the sun went down, I sampled a Belgian waffle from Wafels & Dinges – it was also delicious!


How can you get to the Union Square Holiday Market? The easiest way to get to the market is by subway. Take the L, N, Q, R, 4, 5, or 6 train to the 14 Street/Union Square station.

Local Makers at the Brooklyn Holiday Bazaar

I’m always looking for fun, unique gifts made by local artisans and craftspeople. To that end, I recently attended the third annual Brooklyn Holiday Bazaar, which is organized each year by Brooklyn Makers. The Bazaar was held at 501 Union, in Gowanus, Brooklyn. The space was a little small for the number of people who attended, but that’s a great sign for all of the makers who were selling items there. As always, I have chosen some of my favorite things from the Bazaar to feature here, but there were many more great items for sale. (Check out the Brooklyn Makers website if you’re wondering what else is available.)

One of the first tables to catch my attention was that of Goose Grease. Goose Grease, which is owned by Brooklyn residents Juan Carlos and Anna Leigh Donado, sells sets of small wooden dolls. The wooden doll bodies are made by a carpenter in Bogotá, Colombia, through fair trade, and then local artisans paint each doll. The dolls are delightful, perfectly sized to spark children’s imaginations. There are even blank sets that you can paint yourself, or you can provide photographs and have a set custom painted. This first photograph shows their “Brooklyn Family.”


I also loved this set, called “The Peacemakers,” including Harriet Tubman, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ghandi. Wouldn’t it be cool to see small children playing with these dolls?


Finally, here are some examples of the custom versions the artisans at Goose Grease can create.


Another maker with great gift options for children is Home Grown Books. This company publishes books meant to feed children’s creativity and imagination, using beautifully illustrated books on a variety of subjects. Many of the books are packaged thematically. For example, you can buy a set of books that relate to the them of “adventuring,” “play,””city and country,” or the “environment.”


They also have board books with thick cardboard pages for younger readers.


My third pick is a little different. Rescue Chocolate is a great company. Their chocolate bars are made in Brooklyn and are organic, vegan, kosher, and fair traded. The best part – their profits go towards supporting animal rescue organizations. Buying their chocolate bars can allow you to give two gifts in one, as they would make great stocking stuffers but also mean support for animal rescue!


Brooklyn-based Blink Blink sells innovative gifts meant to stir creativity and interest in technology. They have several different circuitry kits that can be used to make everything from holiday cards to sewing and craft projects that light up. Want to interest children in technology while encouraging their creativity and imagination? Blink Blink’s kits are a fun way to do exactly that. Each kit contains several suggestions regarding how its components can be used, but those are just a jumping off point for project design.




I’ve talked about the folks at Boundless Brooklyn before, but I was so excited to see them at the Holiday Bazaar as well. Boundless Brooklyn creates DIY water tower, billboard, and lifeguard towers.


One reason why I was happy to see Boundless Brooklyn this time is that they had local illustrator and graphic designer Xavier Alvarez (In Prime We Trust) painting custom versions of their model billboards.


Brooklyn jewelry and accessory designers Soluna Soluna brought fun jewelry to the holiday bazaar, with a New York City-themed twist: jewelry incorporating local area codes! Other pieces are geometric and unique, making perfect gifts from NYC.


As an animal lover, I enjoyed the cat toys and other handmade items offered by Kitty Jones. These catnip-filled mice looked like they are sure to please the most finicky feline, and the scratch pads were thick and high quality. (Kitty Jones also sells replacement inserts for the scratch pads.)


The Brooklyn Block integrates technology and fashion with their beautiful scarves. They start by taking video of a New York City Neighborhood. The video is then processed in code, and finally is printed onto each scarf. This example is the Manhattan evening skyline. The concept behind the Brooklyn Block’s designs is very cool, and the scarves are beautiful. Each neighborhood offers its only colors and patterns.


My final pick for this post: Descendant Cider Company. The folks at Descendant Cider were offering samples of a few of their ciders, which were delicious! I’ve definitely found a new favorite. I tried the Pom Pomme Sparkling Dry Cider, which combines apples, pomegranate, and hibiscus flowers.


The Descendant Dry Cider was crisp and delicious, with a strong apple flavor.


Finally, I tasted Descendant’s Pair Cider, a combination of apple and pear that is aged in American Oak barrels. The Pair was a pleasant surprise for me. The oak barrels give the cider a rich, buttery taste, similar in some ways to a Chardonnay, but there is still that flavorful reminder of the fruit as well.


All three ciders would make good stocking stuffers or the perfect hostess gift to bring to a holiday party. I’ll definitely be buying some myself!

Grand Central Terminal’s Holiday Fair

It’s that time of year when everyone is shopping for holiday gifts, and New York City offers many options for completing your shopping list. One of my favorites is Grand Central Terminal’s annual Holiday Fair. This year’s Holiday Fair hosts 74 different booths, guaranteed to offer a variety of gifts for anyone you may be shopping for. The Holiday Fair takes place in Vanderbilt Hall, a convenient location.


With 74 booths to choose from, I’ve chosen some of my favorites to focus on for this article. The first one to catch my attention was that of Danielle Gori-Montanelli, who makes jewelry, hats, and other accessories from high quality wool felt. Danielle’s designs are fun, colorful, and whimsical, with close attention to small details. Here’s one of Danielle’s hats. The detail work on this hat is delightful.


She has some fun pins as well.


My favorite pin was this one. And while I was talking to Danielle, another woman came up proudly wearing one of them on her coat lapel. She said that she had received so many comments about it!


Finally here’s a picture of a sophisticated necklace made of black and white felt. I loved the architectural elements in this piece.


Next, I found the booth for Nöel Nomad, which carries beautiful Christmas ornaments and decorations made by women in Kyrgystan. The ornaments are adorable–there are numerous different animals, as well as angels and nativity scenes. These ornaments would make great gifts and stocking stuffers.



One of my favorite thing at Nöel Nomad was the nativity scene, complete with yurt! Look at the lovely embroidered details on the yurt.


Another favorite: With Love, From Brooklyn. This shop focuses on artisan foods and other items, with the focus on products made in Brooklyn. The booth had so many things to choose from: Mast Brothers chocolate bars; Fatty Sundays chocolate covered pretzels; Field Trip beef jerky; illustrator Claudia Pearson’s New York-themed tea towels and coffee cups; Salty Road salt water taffy; caramels from Liddabit Sweets; The Jam Stand’s delicious jams; and spreadable bacon from The Bacon Jams. Yes, I just said that–spreadable bacon jam. I tasted it. Although I was skeptical, it was actually delicious! (I’m sure I left a few Brooklyn-based businesses out–my apologies!) But they definitely had some great stuff!


One fun product at With Love, From Brooklyn was W&P Design’s Carry On Cocktail Kits. If you know someone who enjoys cocktails, these kits would make unexpected and fun stocking stuffers.


One final fun thing from With Love, From Brooklyn: Boundless Brooklyn’s DIY Model Kits, including the ubiquitous New York City water tower. These kits have recently been featured in the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. There are also occasionally gallery shows, with artist-painted versions of the water towers. Here’s a photograph of a completed (but unpainted) water tower.


In another row, I discovered The Owl Workshop. One side of the booth had adorable organic cotton baby clothes, many with New York-specific screen-printed designs.


On the other side, there were tiny handmade outfits and accessories for dogs.


Just down from this stall was Verrier Boutique’s handcrafted paper items, included prints (both framed and unframed) and delightful sparkly cards. Verrier Boutique is the brainchild of mother-daughter team Ashleigh and Jude Verrier. If you are looking for a unique greeting card for birthdays or holidays, these cards would do the trick for sure! And the prints are bright, fun, and creative. (I particularly loved the New York City-themed Christmas cards, one of which is featured below.)




As I thought I was getting closer to the end of the Holiday Fair, I found MarieBelle New York Chocolates, which are made in Brooklyn. MarieBelle’s chocolates are sumptuous–rich and creamy. And they are presented in a way that makes them appealing, perfect for gifts (or for your own eating pleasure, as they’re hard to resist). MarieBelle’s signature ganache chocolates are screen-printed with edible cocoa butter designs; each pattern signals a different flavor, but also turns them into works of art.


MarieBelle is also known for their gourmet hot chocolate:


And, for stocking stuffers, MarieBelle has delicious chocolate bars. One version has sophisticated packaging and comes in flavors like Japanese Macha, Choco Banana, and Espresso. The other is playful and features saucy vintage pinup girls!



Finally, in the very last booth, I found another treasure, called Emma. Emma has no website, but her work is amazing. Everything in her shop she made by hand, either using crochet or knitting. She has beautiful scarves, hats, and headbands in a variety of soft, colorful yarns, but she also had some unique hats and neck pieces that are avant-garde, truly works of art. I thought I would feature of few of those special pieces here.



While you’re at Grand Central, make sure that you allow time to explore. The Terminal has beautiful architectural details, and there’s a food court with some delicious food and drink options on the lower level Dining Concourse. It’s also a good opportunity to see the model train exhibit at the New York Transit Museum’s annex, which is free.

Because the Holiday Fair takes place in Grand Central Terminal, it is easy to get to by public transportation. The 4, 5, 6, 7, and S subway lines all stop at Grand Central, as do numerous buses. You can also take the Metro North Railroad.

Exploring ID Pop Shop

After my recent posts about the Chelsea Market and Artists & Fleas at Chelsea Market, the people associated with ID Pop Shop invited me to visit their pop-up shop at Chelsea Market this week. I’m always looking for local artists and artisans–you never know what you might discover for yourself or as gifts for others. And the best part is supporting the creative and business efforts of fellow New Yorkers!

ID Pop Shop is short for Independent Designer Pop Shop. Founders Barbara Wilkinson and Raoul Calleja have carefully curated the ID Pop Shop to offer a variety of options to shoppers. Some artists and artisans routinely show their collections in the ID Pop Shop’s events, but new ones are added each time. The ID Pop Shop regularly sets up in the special event space on the first floor of the Chelsea Market (in fact, it’s been there more than 30 times since 2011), but it also utilizes other spaces.

Today, I thought I would focus on some of my favorite discoveries from my visit. I was immediately drawn to the wearable art of Pauletta Brooks. Pauletta’s jewelry is innovative and beautiful. Some pieces have a very strong presence, taking their cues from the gemstones and minerals that are her raw materials, but there are still delicate elements as well. I snapped a few photos of some of my favorite pieces:

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One thing I don’t often see at shows like this is millinery. Well-made hats have a functional purpose, but they can also be works of art! This ID Pop Shop featured the work of milliner Karema Deodato. As you can see from these photos, her hats are beautifully designed from high-quality materials. They would make a unique gift for someone special or a stylish finishing touch for a special outfit.

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ID Pop Shop co-founder Raoul Calleja’s booth, vernakular photo designs, was fun. Vernakular showcases independent photographers’ photographs in unique ways, by imposing the photos on other useful objects. My favorite items are the round manhole cover rugs, which come in a variety of patterns. (Funny story–I was told that a child who saw these rugs thought that a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle might be hidden underneath!)



Barbara Wilkinson, the other co-founder of ID Pop Shop, has a booth displaying her delicate and beautiful jewelry designs. Barbara combines semi-precious gemstones from India with handcrafted pendants and charms from Indonesia and Thailand. I saw some necklaces that would make thoughtful holiday gifts:

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There were multiple artisans selling beautiful purses and bags. One of my favorites was Viva Zapata! These colorful bags are designed by Brooklyn resident Tania, and they have a great story. The vinyl used in these bags are leftover scraps from companies that manufacture the vividly-colored seat covers for buses in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The bags are then made by Argentinian tailors. These bags are delightful, with their thoughtful combinations of colors–even the zippers and linings are colorful, and each bag has several internal and external zippered compartments. Viva Zapata! bags are also vegan.


I also loved Susannah Thompson‘s bags, which are made from denim, burlap, and canvas and are very durable. These bags would make a great tote bag to take towels, sunscreen, etc. to the beach, but you could also use one as an easy carry-on bag or daily work bag. The backpack bags in the second photograph are cute and stylish, with leather straps.

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Clothing designer Nina Valenti’s collection, naturevsfuture, is innovative, with unique details that catch the eye. I particularly loved this top’s design, as well as a number of her coats and jackets. The cut and seams create interesting angles in Nina’s designs, and the fabric feels comfortable and warm.



Finally, I met Katya Slepak, the founder of Malaya Organics. Malaya Organics is a line of natural and organic beauty products, handcrafted in Brooklyn. I tried samples of the moisturizing body oil, rejuvenating face serum, and hair oil. It was raining the day of my visit, and my hair was wild and frizzy–I was impressed by how the hair oil smoothed my hair, and it smelled great as well! Malaya Organics also makes some lovely bath products, including soaps and bath salts.

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There were other great artists and artisans as well–these are just the ones that I had time to get to know during my visit. Because there are new people joining the ID Pop Shop for each event, it’s possible to find new treasures each time.

Although ID Pop Shop will be ending this particular event on November 1, you will be able to find them December 1-21 at a special pop-up shop space in the Meatpacking District: 446 West 14th Street, at the foot of the High Line. Maybe I’ll see you there! They also provide updates about upcoming events on their Facebook page.

Artists & Fleas at Chelsea Market

DSC00891-editedIn a previous post, I described some of the things you can do during a visit to Chelsea Market. Today, I want to talk about Artists & Fleas, a great shopping space for art and thoughtful gifts. There are two locations for Artists & Fleas in New York City: Chelsea Market and Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The Chelsea Market location can be accessed from inside the Market or outside the Market at 10th Avenue and 15th Street.


What makes Artists & Fleas so enjoyable is that there are numerous vendors, each with their own stall selling their unique art, jewelry, clothing, and other items. There is such variety that everyone can find something that appeals to them.


In my most recent visit, I found two vendors’ stalls most appealing. First, there is the jewelry designer, Glitterlimes. Glitterlimes jewelry is designed by Debbie Tuch. Debbie’s jewelry is unique. Made from real candy and fruit that Debbie preserves and then treats with a resin, the jewelry immediately grabbed my attention as I walked by the stall.



Here are a couple of close-up shots of my favorite pieces. The first one is a brooch made from a slice of Kiwano melon, and the second is a candy bracelet. The melon brooch is stylish and striking, a one-of-a-kind piece that would add a special touch to a jacket, dress, or sweater. In contrast, the candy bracelet is pure fun.

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I was told that the Glitterlimes booth will be gone from the Chelsea Market location soon, but it is coming back in December (just in time for holiday gift shopping!).

The other artist/vendor who caught my attention was Kevin Marcell, who makes beautiful silkscreened prints over recycled New York City bicycle maps.


Here’s a close-up view of a few of the screen-printed posters:


I couldn’t resist–I bought one of the Williamsburg Bridge prints for myself!

Artists & Fleas is one of those places where you’ll find something unique every time you visit. If you are ever at Chelsea Market, check it out.