Tag Archives: Victorio’s Pizza

Day Fifty-One: August 8,10 & 11, 2016: Walking in Harlem on the East & West Side 155th Street to 145th Street

I finally finished my two Brooklyn tours through school and was back up in Harlem today. It was a long day of walking as those city blocks across are long. I started at the subway stop at 168th Street and walked down to 155th Street (the subway was not running to 155th Street over the weekend). As usual when I have to walk down Broadway, I stopped at my new favorite bakery, Estrella Bakery at 3861 Broadway (check out the numerous reviews on TripAdvisor) for chicken pastilitos and cubanitos.

If you like hot snacks and sweet desserts, this will be your ‘go to’ place for a quick snack when walking up here. It is still one of the reasons why I don’t complain about getting off at 168th Street when the C subway is not in service. I like to stop at one of the pocket parks on Broadway to relax and eat. It was a long afternoon of walking.

Estrella Bakery.jpg

Don’t miss this excellent Dominican Bakery on Broadway

My walk over these three days took me from 155th Street to 145th Street from Riverside Drive to Lenox Avenue (there are still some side streets on the other side of Jackie Robinson Park that I have not finished yet). Don’t let these maps fool you, these are long blocks being walked in humid weather.

I started my walk today at the Hispanic Society of America Museum at 155th Street which is on the Boricua College-Manhattan Campus. It shares the campus with the American Academy of Arts & Letters, which closed down in June for the rest of the summer. The Hispanic Society of America is a free museum that is small enough that you can enjoy the visit for about an hour without being over-whelmed like you would at one of the bigger museums.

Hispanic Society of America.png

The Hispanic Society of America

It was a small but no less impressive collection of Spanish Art from different periods. The Hispanic Society of America was founded as a free museum and research library in 1904 by the American scholar and philanthropist Archer Milton Huntington (1870-1955). Over the past century, the Hispanic Society had promoted the study of the rich artistic and cultural traditions of Spain and Portugal and their areas of influence in the Americas and throughout the world. The Museum and Library constitute the most extensive collection of Hispanic are and literature outside Spain and Latin America (Hispanic Society of America literature).

The museum  had a nice crowd that afternoon, (how these people found it I will never know. I never knew it existed) and the galleries were small but the work was impressive. Some of the pieces that stood out were Jouquin Sorallo y Bastida’s ‘Vision of Spain’ created between 1911-1919, with many traditional views of parts of Spain and ‘After the Bath’ done in 1908, which looked more like a contemporary beach scene. The one piece that stuck in my mind was a new piece to the collection, ‘The Four Fates of the Soul’, which showed Death, Heaven, Purgatory and Hell. The sculpture really proved it’s point and made me think that we really are being watched from above. Even the guard as I was leaving said it was a new piece to the collection but people really talked about it as they were leaving.

After the museum, I had about ten minutes to walk  around Trinity Cemetery, which is  a quiet but scenic place. The graves on this side of Broadway overlook the Hudson River and are so peaceful with beautiful views, it makes you think of where you want your final resting place to be located. To live eternity here says something. Even the views of New Jersey  are gorgeous. Be sure to get to the museum and the gravesite early as they do close at 4:00pm.

I began my zig-zag trip of this part of Harlem at 154 Street and from there until 145th Street, the areas between Riverside Drive and Edgecombe Avenue house some of the most beautiful and elegant brownstones that I have seen in the city. So many of the them are under scaffolding as the new population moving up here is putting a lot of money into the renovations of these properties. The results are amazing with wooden doors, elegant metal work cleaned up and lively planters all around the stairs and the windows.

Sugar Hill I.jpg

Sugar Hill Neighborhood

With the CUNY campus just south of this area, you can see that college population is spreading its wings all over the neighborhood as the students, even in the summer, are moving in or living in this neighborhood and invest in buying in the bodegas, restaurants and hanging around the parks. The more diverse population looks like it is really making an effort to work together for this neighborhood. The most beautiful of these blocks is concentrated between Amsterdam Avenue and Nicholas Street so take time to really look at these homes and see the love and care that is put into them.

Jackie Robinson Park I

Jackie Robinson Park where the students hang out.

Another stop I made was in the Hope Garden at 153rd Street that runs through 152nd Street. This was an empty lot between all the buildings that has now been cleaned up and the neighborhood held their Annual Open House & Barbecue for the neighborhood. It was not much of a turnout at that point of the afternoon but all the neighborhood seniors looked at me like ‘oh oh, another one is moving in’. You begin to pick up on these things when you walk through neighborhoods that have not seen me before.

Hope Steven Garden II.jpg

Hope Steven Garden

Everyone was really nice though and some of the ladies were explaining how the neighborhood banded together to clean and landscape the garden. The garden now contains peach trees, berry bushes and a grape arbor while supporting a cat colony that lives in the garden. Some of the neighbors were grilling hamburgers and hot dogs and older residents were chatting amongst themselves. No one made a fuss about me eating and since I was not hungry, I did not partake in the barbecue but it looked pretty good.

Most of the residents sat around and chatted with their neighbors or busy working in the garden. As I sat down to rest, two of the women who volunteer here, looked like they wanted to recruit me to do the same as they told me the story of how the city’s water aqueduct runs underneath the garden so they can never build here and how bad the neighborhood had become and how it was coming back to life. It takes a big person to show the immense pride in a neighborhood.

I stopped back in Convent Garden again to visit Ms. Davis, who was chatting the afternoon away while getting her exercise working in their garden. She was telling me that they will be having a jazz concert with food on Labor Day Weekend and invited me to join in. This I don’t want to miss as it is my two favorite things, jazz music and food. The volunteers were really working away at making this garden the well maintained and colorful place that the garden is to the neighborhood. Everything is in full bloom right now.

Convent Garden Manhattan.jpg

Convent Garden in full bloom

The Sugar Hill neighborhood is really impressive and you could see that this was not one of the places that went downhill as the rest of Harlem decayed in the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s. It was and still is an grand group of homes that their owners take a lot of pride in. Now that the rest of the city has caught up with it, it will be interesting to see what comes out of it the next few years.

Another small oasis exists on 149th Street, which is Maggie’s Garden. It was locked at the time but also another garden taken from an empty lot and brought back to life. Maggie Burnett, are Harlem resident, turned what was once a ‘rickety old house’ when torn down into an urban oasis starting in 1974. Fighting off drug dealers to build the garden, she got some help from New York Restoration Project and its founder, Bette Midler who assisted in 1999 helping clear the site and now it is a garden with trees, flowers, a full vegetable garden and a barbecue. You could not see all that from the locked gates. (Daily News article).

Maggie's Garden.jpg

Maggie’s Garden

I was able to start my walk on the other side of Bradhurst Avenue on the other side of Jackie Robinson Park. I will let you know that the college students from CUNY have discovered the park and were sunning themselves the afternoon I walked around the park. Bradhurst Avenue has a lot of new buildings on it and the businesses include a Starbucks so you know that neighborhood is going through a transition. To let you know though, this transition stops here and the further you get away from the park, the seedier the area gets. By the time you hit Lenox Avenue, gentrification has not hit this area of the neighborhood and you should watch yourself. The buildings are beautiful and there is a police station a block in but it still needs a lot of work on this side of West 145th Street.

The end of the walk that day was at 145th Street and lunch at Harlem Brothers Pizza & Wings at 346 West 145th Street which is right next store to Victorio’s Pizza that is more of the rave. The pizza was just average and the sauce did not have much flavor to it. The funny part was to listen to Indian music while eating my pizza.  That was strange. My recommendation is go to Victorio’s Pizza and get it to go and eat it in Jackie Robinson Park. The middle of the park has benches to sit on and the park is really pretty with its slopping walkways and rock work and it’s large trees to sit under.

The entire walk between 155th Street and 145th Street with an extra afternoon walking down Convent Avenue took almost five hours. Again, don’t let these blocks fool you as they are long and you will want to stop in the  parks and gardens and walk around.

Places to Visit:

Jackie Robinson Park

Bradhurst to Edgecombe Avenues at 145th Street to Manhattan Avenue

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/jackie-robinson-park_manhattan

Convent Garden

Convent Avenue & St. Nichols Avenue

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/convent-garden/highlights/7737

Maggie’s Garden

564 West 169th Street

https://www.nyrp.org/green-spaces/garden-details/maggies-garden

Hope Steven Garden

505 West 142nd Street

https://www.manhattanlandtrust.org/contact-us/hope-steven-garden/

Sugar Hill Neighborhood

Between 135th Street to 162nd Street and Edgecombe Avenue and Amsterdam Avenue

http://www.sugarhillmap.com/about.asp

Hispanic Society of America

163 West 155th Street

New York, NY 10032

(212) 926-2234

https://hispanicsociety.org/museum/

Open: The museum is currently closed for renovations. Please check the website for the opening.

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d110237-Reviews-Hispanic_Society_of_America-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/160

 

Places to Eat:

Victorio’s Pizza

346 West 145th Street

New York, NY 10039

(212) 283-2100

Open: Sunday 11:00am-9:00pm/Monday-Saturday 11:00am-8:45pm

https://www.victoriospizzaplusmenu.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d10539122-Reviews-Victorio_s_Pizza_Plus-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

Estrella Bakery

3861 Broadway

New York, NY 10032

(212) 795-5000

Open: Sunday-Saturday 5:00am-9:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d4416394-Reviews-5_Estrella_Bakery-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/407

Harlem Brothers Pizza & Wings

346 West 145th Street

New York, NY  10039

(646) 455-0942

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d10715273-Reviews-Harlem_Brothers_Pizza_Wings-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

 

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Day Forty-Nine: Walking Riverside Drive from 86th Street to 155th Streets July 10, 2016

I went to the Museum of Natural History this morning for a walking tour called “The History of Sharks” that took us through several galleries as the tour guide explained the history of sharks from pre-historic times to present day. How we live with sharks, how their DNA developed over the years and a discussion on the famous attacks on the New Jersey shore in 1916 to the movie ‘Jaws’. The museum runs these special tours for members and it was nice to explore the museum as a small group. Their volunteers do a wonderful job explaining things and the museum, in anticipation of a major rainstorm that never happened, was packed to the gills. I never see it that busy.

After my visit to the museum, I decided to take a walk up Riverside Drive. It was such a beautiful day with no sign of rain coming, I walked the length of Riverside Drive from 86th Street to 155th Street, crossed over 155th Street to St. Nicholas Avenue and walked down the street to 145th Street to get a better look at the brownstones and mansions and then back up to 155th Street and back down the other side of Riverside Drive to 110th Street and across to the subway station the corner of Central Park. This part of the walk took me past many historical sites and statues, past pocket parks and mansions and the beauty of Riverside Park.

First there is nothing like walking around the west side of Manhattan along Riverside Park. It is a truly wonderful park with people jogging, biking, sunbathing and picnicking. Everyone was really enjoying this clear, sunny Summer afternoon. On a quiet Sunday, the park is mostly yours depending on where you are walking.

All along the way uptown, Riverside Park and Drive are lined with many memorials and statues. I was amazed on many were in the area of the drive. My first stop along the way was the Soldiers’ & Sailors’Monument at West 89th Street that was dedicated to the Union Army soldiers and sailors who contributed in the American Civil War. This structure was completed in 1902 and President Theodore Roosevelt presided over the opening. A very impressive structure that I can see most people miss.  Part of the structure is still in disrepair but you can still walk around the pillared structure and gaze at its beauty.

Soldier and Sailor Monument.png

Soldier’s & Sailors Monument

I took a turn and swung into Riverside Park to visit a small playground and a very lively birthday party. I dropped into Hippo Park at 91st Street, a lively little playground with tons of kids running around, climbing on playground structures and actually acting like kids. I see far too many children obsessed with the cell phones not paying attention to what is going on around them. The kids were obviously having fun while the parents handed out food and gossiped amongst themselves.

Hippo Park is part of the Riverside Park Conservatory and run by volunteers in the neighborhood that also provides entertainment during the summer with outdoor concerts and a newly renovated playhouse for parties. Check out their website for details.

Hippo Park

Hippo Park

The next monument that I passed was the Firemen’s Memorial at 100th Street and Riverside Drive. This is a very quiet and relaxing sculpture that is dedicated to the members of the Fire Department who have lost their lives in the line of duty. This sculpture was dedicated in 1913 and has been renovated a few times since. During the tragedy of 9/11 in 2001, this became a vigil site for those morning the loss of so many members of the FDNY. This stop is a must for all fire fighters.

Firemen's Memorial Riverside Park

Firemen’s Memorial

My next stop was at the Franz Sigel Statue at West 106th Street. The majestic statue of a Major General in the Union Army during the Civil War. He encouraged many then German-Americans to fight for the Union. After the war, he became a proud New Yorker. This small park faced Riverside Drive on the other side of the street.

Franz Sigel Statue

Franz Sigel Statue

As I continued the walk up further, the monuments continued with the statue of Samuel Tilden, a former Governor of New York located at West 112th Street. Tilden’s career was illustrious with fights  against the Tweed stronghold in NYC and some saying that he had the Presidential election stolen from him with the Electoral College by Rutherford Hayes. His large estate and book collection helped found the New York Public Library.

Samuel Tilden Statue.jpg

Samuel Tilden Statue

I finally made it to one of my goals for the day, Grant’s Tomb (see the reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com), the final resting place of our 18th President Ulysses Grant and his wife, Julia. This monument has had a love-hate relationship with the city. The President died of throat cancer in 1885 and his wife recommended that his burial place be in New York City over West Point and Washington DC as President Grant and his wife made this their home for the last years of their life.

Grant's Tomb.png

Grant’s Tomb

The monument was finished in 1897 and the President’s remains were moved here before the dedication. His wife died in 1902 and was buried along side her husband.  In 1958, the National Park Service took the monument over and was given a small budget to oversee it.  In the 70’s and 80’s as the city had declined, this part of the park was a mess and the monument was vandalized to the hilt. It had gotten so bad at one point where the descendants of the family threatened to pull the bodies out of the tomb because of neglect. Since the 90’s, the monument and the park have been restored and it is open to the public for limited times during the week.

The park now is used for picnicking and parties as many were going on as I walked through the park. The tomb itself was closed for the day and was fenced off to the public. Not a good sign for the parks system for such an important piece of the city’s history.

Off to the side of the monument,  inside Riverside Park next to the path, is the Amiable Child Memorial (See review on VisitingaMuseum.com), the resting place to St. Clair Pollock. This touching little monument is dedicated to a child who died in 1797 in the fifth year of his life from a fall from the cliffs somewhere in the current park. It is one of the private graves located on public land. This small stone funeral urn is on a pedestal marking the grave. It is a very touching grave to a small child. I left a coin there as many have in the past.

Tomb of the Amiable Child

Tomb of the Amicable Child

I continued the walk up through the park until I hit Riverbank Park on 145th Street, one of the unique parks I have ever seen. The 28 acre park is built on the top of a water treatment plant that was inspired by parks built on roof tops in Japan. This park has everything. It has a pool, basketball courts, tennis courts, soccer field, baseball field, a cool off fountain and ice skating rink. It has it all and has the neighborhood embraced this park. The place was packed in all venues. It was a truly democratic park as all races play here.

I was most impressed by the number of families having parties and barbecues in the park. There must have been about a dozen birthday parties going on at once. The smells of barbecue meats and vegetables wafted in the air and the sounds of laughter and singing was all over the place. Even on a hot day, nothing stops people from having a good time.

I was most impressed by the Snack Bar located in the park’s main building. For $6.00, I got a cheeseburger, fries and a Coke and for a park snack bar they were really good. The portion size was generous and I can tell you for fact that the fries are excellent. Even if you don’t like sports make a special trip to snack bar and you won’t be disappointed. (See review on TripAdvisor)

After a 45 minute detour of this amazing park, I walked the rest of the way through Riverside Park until I hit Trinity Cemetery again and crossed 155th Street to St. Nichols Avenue again. I wanted to take a better look at the mansions at 150th Street in Sugar Hill. This section of Sugar Hill I did not have time to take a good look at the last time I was walking St. Nichols Avenue.

Sugar Hill.jpg

Sugar Hill Brownstones

The homes and brownstones in this area are just gorgeous and give you a totally different prospective of Harlem. Most of these buildings have been sandblasted and restored or in the process of being done. The mansions on the corner of 150th Street and Edgecomb Avenue hark back to a time when this was a very fashionable avenue and don’t miss the Bailey House that is fully restored.

I took a pit stop and stopped for a quick slice of pizza on 145th Street at Victorio’s Pizza Plus at 348 West 145th Street and one of the best slices of pizza I have ever had for $1.00. The pie had just come out of the oven and it was a thin crust made with fresh mozzarella and it was heavenly. Flavorful sauce and the right amount of cheese that was cooked perfectly at any price the pizza was delicious. This is a must for all the CUNY students. (See TripAdvisor review)

The walk took me back across 155th Street and back down Riverside Drive. The park, even at twilight is busy. There were so many bikers, joggers and walkers that you had to move a lot on the sidewalks. My last structure I saw as I walked down Riverside Drive was the Ralph Ellison art piece “Invisible Man” (the picture above) done by sculpture Elizabeth Catlett at 150th Street. It was dedicated to the novelist work on his book “The Invisible Man” about his experience as a Black man during the Civil Rights Movement in NYC. Ralph Ellison lived in the area before he died in 1994. It really is quite the statue.

Invisible Man

Invisible Man Sculpture Riverside Park

As I passed Grant’s Tomb, there were about three parties going on in the park. I don’t think the President even partied that much in one evening when he lived in the city. I could not believe that the park around the tomb would be this busy at eight at night. There were colorful lights all over the trees and a grill going.

I got to 110th Street around 8:30pm and as I rounded Riverside Drive to 110th Street the neighborhood which had been on the fringe for many years has completely changed. The area by Riverside Park had always been nice but as I walked further down the street this area has been sandblasted and rebuilt. Many parts of uptown that had been ignored for years look more like the Upper East Side.

I even saw people walking into Morningside Park which when I was working in the city in the 90’s was a death trap that you would not walk anywhere near but like the rest of the parks like Tompkins Square in the Lower East Side and Bryant Park behind the main library time has passed and they have been fixed up, cleaned up and the area around them now is priced higher.

Morningside Park

Morningside Park

My last stop of the evening was Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread Too at 366 West 110 Street. This neighborhood staple has been around for years and in a much gentrifying neighborhood that seems to be getting away from its Harlem roots. I hope owns the building. The food and service were just excellent. The biggest problem I had with the restaurant is that I over thought how hungry I was that night. After a big lunch at 5:00pm and a slice of pizza by the time the food came I was barely hungry.

Miss Mamie’s is not to be missed. They had a dinner special that was $19.99 for a salad that was one of the best restaurant salads I had had in years. It was crisp with fresh lettuce and tomatoes with a light dressing, for the entrée was freshly fried chicken that was crisp on the outside and moist on the inside and the chicken had so much flavor to it. I had it with mac and cheese and candied yams, not the most healthy choices but after a five mile walk I figured I had burned off a few calories. It was so much food that I had to take half of it home with me along with the Peach Cobbler dessert that was included in the meal (See the review on TripAdvisor).

Miss Mamie's Spoonbread

Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread Too

The service was friendly with out being overwhelming. I must give off certain vibes in this neighborhood because the waitress asked me if I was a lecturer for Columbia. I laughed at the one and asked why. She said I looked smart. I don’t know what looking smart is but I took it as a compliment. Usually above 110th Street every assumes that I am either a cop or DEA. Amazing what being tall is to people.

I ended the evening totally exhausted and took the subway from the 110th Street and Central Park West. Another sign of changes in the neighborhood is that I saw people jogging into the northern park of Central Park at 9:30pm. Things have really changed up here.

Places to Visit:

Hippo Park Conservatory

West 91st and Riverside Drive

New York, NY  10025

(212) 870-3070

https://riversideparknyc.org/groups/hippo-playground/

Riverbank Park

679 Riverside Drive

New York, NY  10031

(212) 694-3600

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/riverside-park

https://parks.ny.gov/parks/93/details.aspx

Reviews on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d565030-Reviews-Riverbank_State_Park-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

General Grant’s National Memorial (Grant’s Tomb)

122nd Street & Riverside Drive

New York, NY  10027

https://www.nps.gov/gegr/index.htm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d105812-Reviews-General_Grant_National_Memorial-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My Review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1354

Tomb of the Amicable Child

524 Riverside Drive

New York, NY  10027

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/riversidepark/monuments/1206

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/630

Various Statues along Riverside Drive

See Riverside Park Memorials NYCParks.com

 

Places to Eat:

Victorio’s Pizza Plus

348 West 145th Street

New York, NY  10039

(212) 283-2100

https://www.victoriospizzaplusmenu.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d10539122-Reviews-Victorio_s_Pizza_Plus-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread

366 West 110th Street

New York, NY  10039

https://spoonbreadinc.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d426019-Reviews-Miss_Mamie_s_Spoonbread_Too-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

Riverbank Park Snack Bar

679 Riverside Drive

Riverbank Park at West 145th Street

New York, NY  10031