Famous Fat Dave - 2006
New Yorker Since 1997
Where do you live?
In the West Village. I share a tiny place with my girlfriend. I'm pretty sure I'm the only cab driver who lives in this neighborhood. I love it, though. I'm looking at Murray's Cheese and Faicco's right now. It's expensive, but now Brooklyn is too.
Tell me about some of the jobs you've had in New York.
I was a cheesemonger at Murray's for six months and a pickle man at Guss' for two years. I also delivered bread for Orwasher's Bakery.
Did you do any pickling at Guss'?
Mostly I just sold them and ate them. I probably ate about 40 to 50 pickles every day.
Whoa. Did you brine your internal organs?
Yes. I might live a lot longer than expected. Or maybe a lot shorter. I don't think of myself as a cab driver. I'm a guy who drives a cab. But I'll always be a pickle man.
You do a "Pickle Tickle" tour in your cab. Where do you go?
We go to Guss', of course. And then people want to compare it to the Pickle Guys, so we go there. I'm on good terms with both sides of the pickle war, which is good. Then we go to Henry Street Ale House in Brooklyn Heights for Elvis's favorite, deep-fried pickles. Sometimes that's the grand finale, because it's such a flavor explosion. There's also a grocery store called Monya & Misha in Forest Hills, where we get pickled watermelon. Belarus II has pickled apples. I don't think it's the best idea, but it's an interesting taste. Actually, their cucumbers are great. In Greenpoint there's Polam, where they make their own pickles and sauerkraut. Then in Bay Ridge there's a place called Kimchee that has all kinds of kimchi.
But if you could only have one kind of pickle for the rest of your life?
It would be a new pickle from Guss'. Like, it was officially a cucumber yesterday. I used to not like sour pickles at all, until I worked at Guss'. And I didn't like blue cheese until I worked at Murray's.
What are some other "bests"?
Best bagel that I've had is Ess-a-Bagel at 21st and First. I've been here for 10 years and haven't found many perfect New York bagels. I thought they'd be everywhere, but they're hard to find. I like H&H too. People rag on it because it's not the classic bagel, but not everything has to be the classic version. On my "Midnight Munchees" tour, we stop there. Since it's open all night, I get whatever's hot. Like, I'm not a pumpernickel person, but if it's hot, I'll take it. Especially right out of the boiler, when it's almost wet inside. And I think I just had my best pizza ever. I finally went into No. 28 yesterday. I was talking to the Napolitano guy—he and his brother make the pizza. So I ordered a margherita, and in terms of the best authentic pie, this was it. It was like being back in Naples.
How long have you been driving the cab?
On and off since 2001. The beautiful thing is that there's no schedule. I can travel and do whatever, and then when I need to make some money, I can drive the cab.
Don't be. It's a shitty job. I've been robbed. Not like gun to the head, though. They just outsmarted me.
Tell me about another one of your tours.
There's a "Real Little Italy" tour. We go to Howard Beach, Middle Village, Arthur Avenue. I'm making a pilot for a TV show about the tours, and the first one's going to be a Sicilian tour. L&B's Spumoni Garden and Fernando's in Red Hook. L&B's has the best Sicilian thick slice in the city. And cold spumoni to go with it. And Fernando's for cannoli.
Are they filled right when you order them?
Yeah. Hand-piped! That's a real cannoli, with the cold, fresh ricotta and the flaky shell. I have a bit of a phallic fixation, I have to admit. I'm very comfortable with my heterosexuality, though.
And an Italian fixation.
Are you Italian?
No. Did you ever see that movie Breaking Away? I'm like that kid. I always thought I was Italian. Aside from New York, Sicily is my favorite place in the world.
What's a perfect day in this city?
A New York version of Ferris Bueller's Day Off, but with a lot more eating. There's a Yankee game, but the hot dogs are good. And Randy Johnson isn't a bum and throws well. I'm thinking a perfect game. We'd go to the Met and sit in the park. We'd go to every borough. We'd spend a lot of that day in traffic, I guess. But there wouldn't be any traffic.
Oh, swimming. We'd have a fillet-of-sole hero at Deli 101 in Rockaway. I used to live in there and I'm obsessed with it. My goal is to have a house there someday.
So, in the fantasy, you'd be swimming near your mansion.
Yes. And there'd be no global warming.