One of New York City’s five boroughs, The Bronx has a number of attractions in its Belmont area that close in proximity to each other: the New York Botanical Gardens, the Bronx Zoo and Arthur Avenue. Particularly, if you enjoy Italian American food, Arthur Avenue is worth stopping by for eating, shopping and just walking around.
Called the Bronx’s “Little Italy,” this main section of Arthur Avenue technically stretches across East 187th Street to Arthur Avenue to Prospect Street. It’s lined with restaurants, eateries, cafes, bakeries, delicatessens and grocery shops. And most of them remain as family-run businesses, as they have been for generations.
You can get a taste for just about any dish and every essential ingredient: pizzas, pastas, fresh mozzarella, sopressa, proscuitto, pastries, and so on. Every September, a festival called Ferragosto takes place to honor an Italian tradition that recognizes the end of the harvest season and celebrates the fruits of hard labor.
On a recent Sunday, I jaunted from place to place along Arthur Avenue’s center strip. In combining my picks with others’ recommendations, here are a few venues worth stopping at:
Madonia Brothers Bakery
Along the main part of Arthur Avenue, Madonia is most noted for its bread, having a good thick crust yet a chewy texture. In fact, one of the restaurants I ate at (and will mention later on) gets bread right from this bakery. The olive bread is quite popular and the spread of pastries is lengthy! This third-generation run bakery is also noted for its cannolis, cookies, biscotti, baguettes and bread sticks. I went home with a hefty box.
Dominick’s Bar and Restaurant
At Dominick’s Bar and Restaurant, get ready for the concept of family style. Diners share tables together, so you will eat alongside people you just met. Plus, the day’s menu is heard not seen. Your waiter lists off your choices of what’s available. Although it may seem a bit off to have to go by ear, the big portion dishes are good and filling. If available, I recommend starting off with the antipasti, followed by perhaps the chicken or eggplant parmesan or cheese ravoli. I went with stuffed peppers, but in hindsight, I probably would have ordered what my friends did.
Teitel Brothers Wholesale and Retail Company (as it’s fully known) carries high-volume imported goods such as olive oil, tomatoes, vinegars and the like. One of the store’s top sellers is an extra virgin Sicilian olive oil made by the Don Luigi brand. Also note, when you come here, take a look at the front door step. You’ll see a Star of David in the tiles and recognize that Teitel is not an Italian name. Unfortunately on the Sunday afternoon I was around Arthur Avenue, Teitel Brothers was closed due to observance but I would definitely make a second trip back.
Arthur Avenue Retail Market
A bazaar of sorts, the Arthur Avenue Retail Market contains a deli, gelatto stand, a beer hall, produce stands, and a cigar store where visitors can watch cigars being made and rolled by hand. It’s right next to Madonia, and it’s good for walking through for a quick browse or to pick up something like a sandwich. For some reason, a few vendors were closed that day but I think it’s still worth popping into.
Borgatti’s Ravioli & Egg Noodles
Like pasta? Borgatti’s Ravioli & Egg Noodles offers different versions of dried fettucine, ravoli, fresh pasta, dry pasta, sauces, vinegars and various imported products from Italy.
Another Arthur Avenue gem, Emilia’s Restaurant centers on southern Italian cuisine with old family recipes made to order.
Casa Della Mozzarella
On 187th Street, Casa Della Mozzarella is known for serving the freshest mozzarella, such as its highly-rated bocconcini. With cheese choices including from salted or smoked, to small, medium, and large, buying mozzarella and Italian meats from here are worth the cost, and at times wait.
Have you visited Arthur Avenue too? Share your favorites with me.