Follow the scent
Hoboken Food Tours booking up, may expand
by Timothy J. Carroll
Reporter staff writer
Oct 01, 2009 | 2896 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print

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Do you want to see the century-old tradition of mozzarella-making done right before your eyes? How about a cannoli from a bakery featured on reality TV?

“Mangia Hoboken,” a weekly walking tour of Hoboken started by resident Avi Ohring, is an eight-stop event that has been gaining popularity since Ohring started it this summer.

Ohring, a Hobokenite since 1986, is a longtime member of the Hoboken Historical Society with a love for all things local. As a tour guide for the Historical Society’s annual garden tour, he saw large turnouts, and the wheels began to turn in his mind.
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“One tells to the other and all of them want to come here.” – Anthony Lisa
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This year, he took advantage of the opportunity to share with newcomers, old residents, and weekend tourists the sights, smells, and tastes of traditional Hoboken eateries. And thus began Mangia.

The tour leaves from the PATH station every Saturday at 2 p.m. and costs $40 per person, but includes “generous” samples at every stop along the way, Ohring said. Private tours are also available.

In a city that’s about a mile-square in area, all of the stops are in walking distance.

Food for thought

Is Ohring a food connoisseur?

“No; I’m more of a Hoboken connoisseur,” Ohring said last week, but he has been in town long enough to have sampled most of the delicious goods he offers to tour-takers.

“It’s mostly Italian, family-owned places,” he added.

The “behind-the-scenes” walk hits all of the major Italian joints: Dom’s, Vito’s, Fiore’s, Lisa’s, and Grimaldi’s.

Dom’s is famous for bread, the delis (Vito’s, Fiore’s, and Lisa’s) serve up fresh mutz and popular sandwiches, Grimaldi’s provides famous brick-oven pizza, and Carlo’s is the site of a popular cable TV reality show, “Cake Boss.”

The tour also stops off at some cultural spots in town, including the gold star on Monroe Street that marks the childhood home of Frank Sinatra.

Better than Manhattan

When Ohring came up with the idea for the tour, he scouted the food tours in New York City, which he said are “not really authentic. I was not particularly impressed.”

Those tours visit bread outlets, unlike his tour, which takes visitors into the back rooms where the dough rises.

The New York tours also leave visitors standing outside some of the more famous eateries, whereas his tourists are usually welcomed into the establishment by the owners.

Say cheese

Anthony Lisa, co-owner of Lisa’s Deli on Ninth Street and Park Avenue, said he loves the visitors.

“Mr. Avi does a great, great service,” he said. “Nothing better than advertising between person to person.”

Lisa’s Deli has been named Best Italian Deli for two years in a row by New Jersey Monthly Magazine, quite the accomplishment.

Lisa comes outside to make mozzarella for the tour-walkers, and has sent groups home with big hunks of cheese at no extra charge.

“One tells to the other and all of them want to come here,” Lisa said. “It a chance to taste ethnic food.”

New tour?

During the week, Ohring sells his own product line for runners and cyclists called Aqua Joe (www.aquajoe.com), but on the weekend he is the big cheese.

Ohring said he hopes to create a second tour focusing on the fine dining hotspots in Hoboken, but doesn’t yet have a timeframe.

He said the second tour could boost his business enough for him to advertise his tours in New York.

For more information on the tour, visit www.hobokenfoodtour.com.

Timothy J. Carroll may be reached at tcarroll@hudsonreporter.com.

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