About five years ago, Dante Mercadante felt fed up.
He hated his work. So the Yonkers resident quit his office-bound sales job and scoured Craigslist for work he wouldn’t dread every morning. It was in the “Etc.” section where Mercadante found what would feed his soul: a job leading food-walking tours in New York City. So the former actor and stand-up comedian earned his license as a NYC Sightseeing Guide.
“I’ve always been an etc. kind of guy,” Mercadante says with self-effacing humor. “I love my job. People show up, they’re happy, and they get fed. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had while working.”
Two years later, Mercadante struck out on his own, forming Nice Guy Tours in 2014. Today a husband and father of a 7-month-old, he chose his company’s name to debunk the stereotype of New Yorkers as rude people. The name wasn’t a stretch for this talkative, friendly guy who loves food.
Mercadante leads two public tours, one in Greenwich Village, and one in the Lower East Side. He also leads private tours for couples, organizations, special events, and company team-building outings. Clients include Westchester Medical Center, Morgan Stanley, a Rye Brook seniors group, and Match.com. His public tours involve at least seven stops at local institutions, restaurants rich with history, awards, and critically acclaimed food. How does he choose his tour’s restaurants?
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“I pick the most delicious restaurants. I’m going to the places I’ve wanted to go to all along,” Mercadante says.
The restaurants on the tour can change, but New York’s casual culinary legends include Bleecker St. Pizza, which won “Best Pizza in New York” on Food Network three years in a row; Economy Candy with its jaw-dropping assortment of sweets from floor to ceiling, an array to make any kid from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory explode with glee; and Katz’s Deli, where Meg Ryan had that orgasmic bite in When Harry Met Sally. Mercadante guarantees no one will leave hungry. The tastes aren’t amuse-bouche sized.
Photo by Amy Sowder
The walking tours cover about a mile and a half and last about three hours. At some spots you sit down inside and eat. At other spots, you snack on the food while standing outside. Mercadante limits each tour to 14 people, so there’s enough room for everyone to hear him talk. He’ll toss out tidbits of not only the restaurant’s history, but information about area landmarks too, from Washington Square Park and the narrowest house in the west to the pushcart culture and tenements to the east.
For those already familiar with the city, the tour is a good way to try dishes you may have heard about, but never got around to trying, but without fully investing in one. Hitting seven storied spots in one chunk of the day is timesaving and cost-effective, Mercadante says. About half of his customers are tourists, and the other half is day-trippers from Westchester, Long Island, and New Jersey.
Nice Guy Tours
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