"Nachos" and Ribs from Torrisi Italian Specialties ($3 and $8, or $10 together)
As they often do, Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi have a lot of fun playing on the fuzzy border between Chinatown and Little Italy; so at an Italian street fair, why not serve sticky ribs in Chinese takeout boxes? Frankly, they're some of the best we've ever had, with a just-sweet-enough glaze and enough heft to really feel like carnival food; but they're so well cooked (a little resistance on the outside, tender chew on the inside, with meat that just barely clings to the bone) that you can't forget there are chefs behind them. (A bucket of 12 enormous ribs for $30 might be our return order.)
Also worth a try are their "nachos," fried wonton wrappers with spicy mustard and duck sauce. "I loved dipping 'em in both sauces as a kid," said Mario, "so I poured both of them on there."
Pork Tonnato Sandwich from The Breslin ($8)
The Breslin's take on vitello tonnato swaps out veal for thinly sliced pork, covered in a creamy, incredibly fishy, and incredibly good mayonnaise. (For the veggie-inclined, they're also doing a very fine red pepper and goat cheese sandwich, the roasted peppers ample and juicy enough to make the reasonably straightforward sandwich seem sloppy and indulgent.)
BYGGYZ Beef ($9)
At some point next year, Dewey Dufresne, father of wd-50 chef Wylie Dufresne (and once-legendary restaurant man in his own right), will be opening his sandwich shop BYGGYZ, and here's your first chance to taste his work. The "BYGGYZ Beef" is crazy-braised short rib re-formed into a patty and topped with American cheese and pickled veggies, along with a mayo-mustard sauce and a swipe of the beef braising liquid, all on ciabatta.
Hot Dog from Brooklyn Bangers ($4)
It's hard to make a hot dog right, but Brooklyn Bangers (made out of the kitchen of The Vanderbilt) is a fine example of the form, beef brisket in a natural casing, done simply with a mustard relish and classic bun. It's a little snappy and beefy and just about everything a good hot dog should be.
Cheddar-Stuffed Falafel from "Little Wisco" ($8)
Wisconsin-born Gabe Stulman, owner of the West Village's Joseph Leonard, Fedora, and Jeffrey's Grocery, has joked (or has he?) about re-naming his particular nook around Sheridan Square "Little Wisco," owing to his own roots and the number of fellow Wisconsinites who work at his restaurants. That's the name his San Gennaro outpost goes by; as may not surprise you, there's cheese involved. Here, it's falafel stuffed with Hook's Cheddar served on a toasted-up pita—worth eating, honestly, because it's really good falafel, amply seasoned and crisp-edged and loose-middled. The cheddar's just a sharp bite in the middle.
Smoked Chicken Pancake from "Little Wisco" ($10)
Little Wisco's also doing a juicy, smoky chicken meatball smashed atop a scallion pancake that's actually like an American pancake, fluffy rather than flaky, pickled veg topping it all off. Fork-and-knife it, or roll it up and eat like a taco? Your call.
Frito pie from L'Artusi ($5)
Another instance of fun fair food done right, this Frito pie gets you a split-open bag of the salty corn chips with cheese, chopped onion, and a moderately spicy, beefy chili con carne; it's satisfying in a totally homey way, getting a little more cheffy (but not too much more) with three different sauces to drizzle on top.
Gelato from Stellina ($3 single, $5.50 double)
We've already gone on record as Stellina fans, but there are some particularly great flavors here, including a blueberry frozen yogurt that was big on the tart yogurt flavor, and "gianduja rocky-road" (not pictured) with an intense hazelnut-chocolate hit. (For fans of good gelato, skip the other stands and either stop by Stellina or La Cremeria, another high-quality shop scooping up their flavors farther south on Mulberry.)
Caramel-corn bomboloni ($3) from Stellina
Also worth a try: the sweet-and-salty, adeptly fried "caramel-corn bomboloni" speckled with Cracker Jack and stuffed with a corn pastry cream.