Getting your own show on the Travel Channel? Most of us can just fuhgettaboudit! But born-and-bred Brooklynite Tony Muia has managed to do just that, with an upcoming pilot for a 2012-debut Travel Channel series, A Slice of Brooklyn, currently in the works. Owner and operator of A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours, Tony a Bensonhurst native turned his passion into showing people around his beloved hometown first into a bus tour, and now, a nationwide TV series.
The new show will be based on Tonys A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour, which he developed after hearing complaints about subpar pizza options in Manhattan, and will feature Tony and a cast of Brooklyn characters (like his cousin Paula and assorted neighborhood buddies) that help him scout out Brooklyns best pizzerias, movie locations, and landmarks, with an authentic, only-in-Brooklyn commentary.
Here with Tonys two cents on just what makes the borough great, as well as on what to expect from the upcoming show:
If you could recommend only one pizza place in Brooklyn, what would it be?
Wow, that's tough! That's like asking me to pick a favorite child. Each pizzeria holds a very special place in my heart, and my stomach, for different reasons. There's J & V Pizza in Bensonhurst. It's the classic neighborhood pizzeria that my mom first took me to as a child. As a child, she would cut the slice into small pieces for me and the best part is that I still go there today! It's the type of walk-up-to-window pizzeria that Brooklyn's known for. I recently introduced my wife to their pizza and she was blown away by it. Then there's L & B Spumoni Gardens, which makes, hands down, the best Sicilian-style pizza in all of NYC. Then there's Totonno's white pie in Coney Island, the innovative pies at Paulie Gee's in Greenpoint . . . the list is endless!
Whats your favorite Brooklyn neighborhood?
That's easy: Bensonhurst. It's the Italian-American area known as the Little Italy section of Brooklyn. It's made up of Italian immigrants who came over from places like Sicily, Naples, and Calabria because they believed in the American dream. They started families and they all contributed to the fabric of this city from all walks of life. Growing up in Bensonhurst was great because there's always the best places in the city for pizza, bread, Italian pastries, fresh mozzarella, and soppressata . . . you name it. My family is still in Bensonhurst and I'm still friends with many of the people I grew up with in that neighborhood. It was a real sense of community growing up there in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s.
If a friend or family member was visiting and had only a single day to explore Brooklyn, what would you recommend as the perfect one-day itinerary?
I'd recommend my pizza tour because it features Brooklyn's favorite food, neighborhoods, landmarks, and famous movie locations all in one afternoon. It was just voted the number one tour of Brooklyn on TripAdvisor, so that's saying something . . . right? Besides pizza, we visit areas like DUMBO, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Bay Ridge, Bath Beach, Bensonhurst, the Coney Island boardwalk, and Brighton Beach. The movie locations on the tour include Saturday Night Fever, Goodfellas, Annie Hall, Scent of a Woman, The French Connection, and more. When we pull up to the movie location, we show them the actual film clip on the monitors of the bus so that they feel like they're right in the movie.
What is one under-the-radar Brooklyn attraction that you think more visitors should discover?
It's called the "Gingerbread House" and we feature it on our pizza tour. I can't tell you where it is though. You'll have to take the tour to find out.
What can viewers expect to see on the Travel Channels A Slice of Brooklyn?
It'll show what it takes for a die-hard Brooklynite to leave 20 years in healthcare to follow his passion of showing tourists from around the country, and around the world, the beauty of his hometown. It features my family and friends: cousin Paula, Uncle Louie, Fat Sal, Frankie Pancakes, and a revolving cast of passengers on our buses. It shows the struggles of being the number one tour of Brooklyn on TripAdvisor while being in the shadows of Manhattan. After six years in business, there are now Manhattan tour companies coming to Brooklyn because they think there's a buck to be made. What do they know about Brooklyn anyway? The very same companies who told me six years ago that they'll be doing tours of Brooklyn when hell freezes over. I guess it got cold enough for them, huh?
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Feeling the chill yourself? Sign up for one of A Slice of Brooklyn Tours next time you're in the Big Apple (all tours depart from/return to Manhattans Union Square). The 4.5-hour Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour highlights the best pizza joints in the borough, with additional sightseeing stops at famous landmarks and movie locations, to boot (runs Fridays, Sundays, and Mondays year-round at 11am; $75 adults, $65 for kids under 12). Or, sign up for the 4-hour Brooklyn Neighborhood Tour, which takes in highlights from famous Brooklyn neighborhoods, like Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, and more, with extras like a stop for cheesecake at Juniors (Saturdays at 10:30am; $65 adults, $55 for kids). And if you happen to be in town this month, their 3.5-hour Christmas Lights & Cannoli Tour offers a stop at an Italian pastry shop and a tour of the Dyker Heights neighborhoods famous Christmas lights and decorations (runs select nights through December, $55 adults, $45 kids).
For more information or to buy tickets, visit www.asliceofbrooklyn.com.
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