Cabbie Dave Freedenberg's slogan is "You do the gorging, I do the driving." If you hop in his New York City taxi, he might just take you on quite a ride. And we don't mean the alternately speeding-then-screeching-to-a-halt ride of the stereotypical cab trip. We mean a ride of the culinary kind.
The former cheesemonger/pickle man/hot dog vendor has combined his talents to create "Famous Fat Dave's Five Borough Eating Tour on the Wheels of Steel." If you think that title is a mouthful -- wait until you go on one of his tours.
For a $100 an hour (no meter running!), Freedenberg will drive you and three friends to his favorite New York City culinary haunts, complete with a running commentary on food, restaurants, city history, and traffic patterns on the Bruckner Expressway.
The 28-year-old said he came up with the idea after his own world travels.
"I noticed that in pretty much every other country on earth, the cab driver is generally accepted as the tour guide," Freedenberg said while negotiating traffic in the Bronx recently. "So I thought why not give a tour of my own city. And what do I know? I know food."
Freedenberg gets most of his food tips from his regular city customers.
"I'm asking all my fares -- where do they eat? And they tell me. And I've compiled it all into a list," said Freedenberg haltingly as he glances in his rearview mirror to change lanes.
One of his favorite stories goes like this. Late one night he picked up a fare who happened to be a truck driver who works at the Hunts Point terminal market in the Bronx. The trucker asked Freedenberg to stop at Fratelli's Pizza Café so he could pick up a meatball and broccoli rabe sandwich before clocking in.
"It was the end of my day and the beginning of his," Freedenberg said. "He told me to come in here and get a broccoli rabe sandwich. So I did and life hasn't been the same since."
While the "Famous" and the "Fat" in his moniker are exaggerated, "Dave's Five Borough Eating Tour" is not to be questioned. Here's where we stopped and gorged ourselves on Dave's signature "Boot of the Bronx" Italian Food Tour:
Fratelli's Pizza Café, Hunts Point Avenue, Bronx, N.Y.
Fresh broccoli rabe purchased across the street in the Hunts Point Market; try the "grandma slice" with meatballs and broccoli rabe or just have the broccoli rabe with toated garlic as a meal in itself!
Artie's Steak & Seafood Restaurant, City Island Avenue, City Island, N.Y.
For an upscale meal in the Bronx. The Littleneck Clams Posillipo with fresh cherry tomatoes is a great appetizer.
Louie & Ernie's Pizza Crosby Avenue, Bronx, N.Y.
The fried calzones are to die for. For a new taste, try the fried calzone with prosciutto (Italian peppered ham) and ricotta and mozzarella cheese.
Teresa's Gourmet Italian Ices, Crosby Avenue Bronx, N.Y.
More than 40 flavors available in the summer; chocolate is the most popular, but lemon is a refreshing, traditional palate cleanser.
Madonia Brothers Bakery Arthur Avenue Bronx, N.Y.
Stocked full with traditional Italian pastries, but the cannoli's are hand-piped with chocolate-chip-filled cream after you order.