In Jackson Heights, Laura Siciliano-Rosen is the go-to guide for everything food — and in this neighborhood, that includes almost anything you’d like to eat.
“I was always in the midst of so many different cultures and getting to explore the food,” Siciliano-Rosen said. “It just took the food love to another level.”
Siciliano-Rosen has lived in Jackson Heights for 14 years. She documents her culinary adventures through “Eats in Queens,” a newsletter she created in collaboration with Queens Together, a network of restaurants in Queens that provides resources for best practices, and has helped feed over 30,000 hungry people during the pandemic.
She also gives food tours to people who want to try dishes from around the world without leaving the area.
“Jackson Heights is really at the center of it all,” Siciliano-Rosen said. “If you can’t go to Nepal, but you can come here, you are getting a really solid, amazing, delicious Nepali experience.”
Nepali Bhanchha Ghar is one of the restaurants she highlights on her food tour, named “Eat Your World.”
One of the staples of the restaurant is jhol momo, a steamed dumpling filled with chicken or goat, and submerged in a spiced soup. The dish is a four-time winner of the annual Momo crawl, an event that allows participants to taste and judge momos from different restaurants in the area. The honor brings Bimla Hamal Shrestha, the owner of the restaurant, much joy.
Hamal Shrestha also takes pride in representing her Nepali culture. She said she “loves Jackson Heights” because of the Nepali people who live here, as well as the culture and festivals that are celebrated in the area.
According to city data, Jackson Heights is home to more than 27,000 Asians and more than 54,000 Hispanics. Both cultures are evident when walking through the neighborhood.
“Once you start walking east of 75th Street, 76th Street, the neighborhood changes so dramatically. It becomes very South American and Mexican,” Siciliano-Rosen said.
Mariscos El Submarino, another stop on the tour, showcases Mexican cuisine. The restaurant started in 2021, and became popular in the neighborhood with its aguachile dish, which is made of raw shrimp and fish, doused with chiltepin peppers and lime juice, and prepared on a molcajete. The family recipe keeps the owner, Alonso Guzman, tied to his coastal roots in Sinaloa, Mexico.
“For me, personally, it has always been a dream to always put the name of Mexico on top,” Guzman said.
The last stop of the tour is Pecochistas, a popular bakery that caters to Colombians who live in the neighborhood. Fresh bread, much of it filled with cheese, is baked there daily. The taste of the bread and coffee reminds many of their customers of Colombia.
“It’s something that moves you emotionally. For us, it’s our day-to-day job, but for our clients, they come to live an experience in this sector,” Jimena Marin, manager of the bakery said.
To Siliciano-Rosen, her passion for food extends beyond the culinary experience. That’s why she said she gives back 5% of her earnings from her food tours to local organizations that serve immigrant communities and the restaurant industry.