Named "New York's Wackiest Tour Guides" by the Travel Channel!

MOVING! An (Endless) NYC Saga

More gorgeous Brownstones, in Park Slope!

On my 24th birthday I got a tattoo of Brooklyn over my heart with a small house icon over Casa Levy. Dad then joked that I should also get a small “X” in every spot throughout Brooklyn in which I’ve lived. If that were true, then I’d end up spending a ton of money on tattoo ink, which I clearly can’t afford, considering how much I already spend on broker fees, security deposits, Uhaul vans and movers.

Yes, it’s time to move onto my eighth apartment in eight years as I continue my (not always voluntary) nomadic journey across Brooklyn. Sometimes the move is a result of choosing a bad apartment, a bad roommate, a bad neighborhood, bad landlords or simply a case of grass-is-greener envy.

So, as I pack those boxes, I thought it’d be nice to reflect back on my apartment sojourn throughout this county of Kings . . .

This lovely view of Sunset Park was, alas not near my place.

1: 3 bedroom in Sunset Park, 2005
Only four months here. It was a small 3rd floor walkup, but it was cheap! When I moved there, I thought I could bike through Greenwood Cemetery to get back to my hometown ‘hood of Ditmas Park. Nope, no bikes allowed in Greenwood. And my nocturnal, punk-rock, vampirish bartender of a roommate creeped me out.

Yup. Thats my Bushwick building . . .

2: Loft in Bushwick, 2005-2006
All the cool kids have lofts in Bushwick, right? My brother Matt lived there for 6 years, and he had such wacky, fun neighbors! Well, I paid too much per month for this loft, nobody in the building talked, and you could hear delivery trucks rumbling past our windows starting at 3am. Plus, another weird roommate. This one played the theramin…

3: Basement duplex in Crown Heights 2006-2008
Tons of space!! I tried not to care that most of it was underground with low ceilings (for a 6’5″ dude, this is no laughing matter) and ceiling pipes that would clang mercilessly at all hours. In the end it was, yet again, a problem roommate. This one had a dog who did her doggie duty on floor-pads that the roommate wouldn’t clean, for weeks on end…

4. 2 bedroom in Bed-Stuy 2008-2009
At long last… the first apartment I was HAPPY WITH! A sweet 2br, 3rd floor walk up on a nice block in a sometimes lovely neighborhood. And yes, this roommate was a delightful friend named Lola who taught me a little bit about how to live with a member of the opposite sex which meant CLEANING UP AFTER MYSELF. Unfortunately, after 1 year, she moved on and I didn’t find a roommate in time, which meant I had to move out in a record-breaking 31 hours.

5. Roach-infested studio in Crown Heights 2009-2010
Need I say more?

A lovely row of Bed-Stuy Row Houses. None of them were mine.

6. 1 bedroom in Bed-Stuy 2010-2011
Only 2 blocks away from the 2br I enjoyed with Lola and my first truly decent apartment by myself. A little too drafty, yes but even moreso: The two block difference from my last place in Bed-Stuy made all the difference in the neighborhood’s charm. At 28, I was getting a little old to live on grimy, broken-down blocks.

7. 2 bedroom in North Park Slope, 2011-2012

I’m currently writing this in my half-packed apartment that I share with my wonderful girlfriend and our dog Betty. The neighborhood is delightful, the apartment is considerably spacious and the price is right, but… big surprise! Our landlords want us out, most likely to slap a coat of paint on the walls and re-rent it at a pumped-up rate. No matter. In two days we move on to…

Thats (from L to R) Betty, Dani and Me!

8. 1 bedroom in South Park Slope

It’s spacious, it’s new and clean, it’s got a GREAT view… and I’m moving with my partner, my friend and the woman I love. And our pooch. (Which means annoying dog deposits are now ALSO a part of my renting life.) I tend to think that the last two moves have been a significant upgrade as I inch toward 30. Will this one last? I sure as hell hope so. And if it doesn’t? Hey, at least I have practice!

By Gideon Levy

View Full Post Comment

Food, Family, Fringe, Fame (?) and Frisbee! 24 Hours in Washington DC!

The LUNYmobile in front of the Capitol.

When we Levys travel, we like to focus on just one thing, like our recent food trip to Philly or the history-heavy vacation my fiance and I took in Moscow and St Petersburg last June. However this long weekend we took a real fast trip to Maryland & DC and managed to do a little bit of our favorite things.

Thats the whole Ingraham/Smith-Green/Levy/etc. extended family!

Family:  We have multi-racial, multi-culti family in Laurel, Maryland. Zillah & Damani Ingraham and their kids Taj & Anisa are Muslim-American; Z is my niece. Q & Denise Smith-Green and their 17 month old son Qadir are African-American; Q is my nephew. Other extended members of the family include: White, Black, Hispanic, American, Egyptian, British, Bolivian, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Suburban, Urban, Young, Old, Boomer & Toddler. This is what our slice of America looks like.

The Occupiers had heart. All 2 or 3 hundred of them. . .

Fringe (politics):  The original reason for this trip was the Occupy DC rally, which we hoped would be a million Occupiers all converging on DC to Occupy Congress, even bigger than the Occupy Times Square protest in October. As soon as we got to the Capitol lawn we realized that the huge rally we hoped for was not happening and the crowd of a few hundred seemed to be mostly a left-wing fringe movement. Heartfelt, sure, but not fully representative of all elements of the Occupy Movement. This element deserves as much of a voice as any other in a democracy, but to call it politically impressive would be a fiction.

Check out Mark's patented behind-the-back Frisbee catch!

Frisbee: Levy Family Rule #3 – There is alway time for frisbee.

LUNY Taylor Sandwich Shop from Matt Levy on Vimeo.

Food: check out our video of Taylor’s Sandwich Shoppe.

Fame?: We visited our (maybe) reality TV producers in Silver Springs, MD and heard good things about a certain gustatory themed channel’s growing interest in casting a certain family in a certain reality TV show. We can’t say much more.

Finally, we headed back to Brooklyn. Not too bad for 24 hours in Washington DC!

By Mark Levy

 

View Full Post Comment

The BEST Slice of Brooklyn Pizza You Never Heard Of . . .

That Carbonara pie wont last on the tray very long . . .

The reason I know this to be the best slice of Brooklyn Pizza you never heard of is because
a) I’m a native Brooklynite and know my way around a slice,
b) you never heard of Bensonhurst (other than its the neighborhood where John Travolta struts his stuff as Tony Manero in the opening scene of Saturday Night Fever; that, and birthplace of the Three Stooges,)
but most importantly, c) Google Places asked us to lead two foodie partybus tours. Novembers’ tour was the highly enjoyable #GoogleUniqueEats Washington Heights Foodie Tour, and December was the #GooglePizzaBus in Brooklyn.

In order to hunt out the best pizzerias to which I could bring a busload of Google Place users, my best bud Will and I biked around southwest Brooklyn and right into John’s humble pizza joint three months ago. We sat down for one slice, ended up with four each, and I’ve been craving the Carbonara ever since.

You better believe that in 5 minutes that tray of Grandma slices was gone

Valentino’s itself dates from 1976, but John Fruente, a Carroll Gardens boy, South Brooklyn native, took over ownership 6 years ago. He makes all the pies by hand and uses (of course) only fresh ingredients. No fancy brick oven, no coal or wood fired stove. Simply gas fired and good ingredients make his pizza the top notch.

He wouldn’t share too many of his secrets with me, but there is a certain kind of massaging magic that John does to his dough which results in the lightest, airiest, thinnest bread that then gets judiciously covered in sauce, cheese and toppings.

Look at that gorgeous pizza pie. A Carbonara, straight from the oven.

The Carbonara – a wonderful three cheese cream sauce, bacon and fresh parsley – is unbelievably refreshing and filling. I could eat an entire pie of the stuff and still ride my bicycle back to North Brooklyn to go dancing all night.

Adam Sandler in the funny flick Big Daddy - Luigi's in Brooklyn provided the scene!

The rest of the #GooglePizzaBus tour was a trip – we had herb-infused olive oil drizzled on our regular slice at Luigi’s, another gem of a pizza joint in South Slope. Luigi’s had a brief time to shine in 30 seconds of the Adam Sandler comedy Big Daddy – its when Adam picks his surrogate son up and plops him on the counter for a slice.

L&B Spumoni does the Sicilian thing very very well.

We tried prosciutto sticks from Tasty Pastry in Dyker Heights, we salivated over fresh mozz from Lioni Latticini, also in Dyker, and no trip to southwest BK is complete without a sliver of a Sicilian slice from L&B Spumoni (and a spoonful of their namesake Italian ices as well.)

#GooglePizzaBus Pizza Freaks at Valentino's!

But ask the 20 pizzafreaks on the partybus – absolutely nothing compared to Valentino’s Pizza. Which is why, as we unveil a new Brooklyn Pizza Tour & Italian-American Adventure on our website, we’re more than happy to make John the posterboy. Fire up the oven John, we’ve got hungry tourists coming your way!

And anyway, who better to trust on the subject of Brooklyn pizza, than this guy . . .!?!

Heeyyy, its Matt, bein' a troo Brooklynite!

By Matt Levy

View Full Post Comment

Where Did YOU Ring in the New Year?

Lookit all those people! Pics courtesy of the Daily News

Times Square. New Years Eve. Nothing says it better than sitting in a dark theater watching a smash-hit rom-com of the same name, but the real thrill is experiencing it in person. Just ask the approximately one million people (although there’s no official count,) who go to the Crossroads of the World to experience it live. And I was one of them.

Yes, I was The Shepherd, guiding a flock of six people (which dwindled from the original twelve,) through the pressing bodies and buzzing energy of the official New Years celebration on Planet Earth. Working a job that was promoted as a Times Square Pub Crawl, my original group of a dozen joyful, overly excited clients ran the gamut.

We had 22-year old ladies from Cincinnati and Cleveland who were so smashed off of Champagne, Baileys and Bud Light that they were off their feet by 9:30. We had a group of tuxedo’d Norwegians who were so paranoid of being swindled they also failed to leave the first bar. We had a one-armed Knicks fan that was glued to the TV and his friend with two left feet from Fort Lee, NJ. After I left these locos at the first bar, my companions for the rest of the night included a German man who mastered five languages, his supermodel Brazilian wife, some hard-drinking Bostonians (who bestowed upon me the nickname “The Shepherd” and last, but not least, the sweetest, black couple from Tampa Bay, FL, named LaLa and Latrice.

Thats our Gaga . . . with Mayor Bloomberg!!??

We started our pub crawl at Lucky Strike Lanes at 12th avenue and 42nd street. We pushed, shuffled, excuse-me’d and apologized our way eastward on 42nd until we got to the barricades at 8th avenue. This is where my Tour Guide’s silver-tongue came into play: I must have sweet-talked those dear dutiful members of the police force for half an hour before we finally crossed East of 8th and our holy grail: a fraction of the ball.

 

The Times Square Ball, ready for its close-up! Pic courtesy of the NY Times

The Times Square ball has had seven different incarnations; the first made its debut in 1907, weighing in at 700 pounds. Before all that though, NYc first celebrated New Years Eve in Times Square in 1904, the same year that the NY Times moved to the square. Fireworks were shot off at midnight in 1904 and the crowd marveled at the colors, the lights, and the flames licking at the corners of a half-dozen buildings. Prior to being called Times Square (for the newspaper,) the area was known as Longacre Square—the horse market. With all the hay built up in garages, rooftop sheds and street corners, fireworks wasn’t exactly the best idea. So they decided to do something a little safer: take a time ball, used by Mariners around the world, used to signify the exact stroke of noon, which was essential in celestial navigation; then move that ball really slowly down a pole!

One hundred and five years later, revelers from around the world cram their way as close as possible to the intersection of 7th Ave and 42nd Street. However we were without a single millimeter left to move, so we conceded to stick it out the final twenty minutes; we could see the Big Ball from where we stood. The Big Ball debuted in 2008, built out of 2,688 Waterford Crystals and over 32,000 LEDs. It has the ability to display shifting themes; 2012 includes “Let There be Friendship,” an engraving of people holding hands around the world as well as “Let There Be Courage” and “Let There Be Joy.” Whatever – we got to see the Big Ball go down, followed by fireworks which light up the sky. Then we took off – pushing through the crowds to get the heck out of there, towards a bar with drinks and dancing celebrants until the night came to a close.

(P.S. That picture of Lady Gaga with the Mayor? I KNEW Lady Gaga back when her name was Stephani Germanotta – we both went to Camp Hi Rock, summers of ’99 to ’03. My childhood friend Eric took Stephani to the junior prom. But then she went Gaga and simply hasnt been the same since . . .)

By Jonah Levy

View Full Post Comment