What most tourists don’t realize, and what seems to be a well-kept secret, is that an area in the Bronx is fondly referred to as the “real Little Italy” of New York. This is not the same as the one in Manhattan, far from it.
I’m sure you have seen the few blocks in Manhattan with red, green and white garlands overhead, and the streets lined with Italian restaurants with barkers on the sidewalk encouraging you to try the food. It has long been and still is a crowded and commercialized yet favorite place for many tourists who visit New York City.
Many New Yorkers have never even been here, but Arthur Avenue in the Bronx is the area that is an authentic Italian-American neighborhood with less crowds and real people who have been living and working here for generations.
Bronx Little Italy consists of Arthur Avenue, East 187th and Hughes, and is home to authentic Italian-American restaurants, bakeries, pastry shops, delis and other retail establishments, some of which have been operating for over a hundred years.
It is amazing to find so many authentic Italian-American restaurants concentrated in one spot. When I had lunch at Pasquale’s Rigoletto Restaurant, the unmistakable aroma of garlic simmering hit me before I even sat down. Although five variations of veal dishes were on the menu, Veal Milanese was not one of them, but they gladly made it for me. Of course it was nothing less than delicious.
Groups of men play Italian card games on a table in a park, and locals speak Italian to each other at restaurants, cafés, and in the street. The shop owners speak English as well as Italian and smile as soon as they meet you, very much like it is in Italy today.
Teitel Brothers established in 1915 sells all types of fine imported specialty Italian food products. This is where I bought some fresh pecorino cheese with truffles from Sardinia…delizioso! Their prices are wonderful.
This area of New York city, also known as Belmont, is where the actor, Joe Pesci lived and actually managed Amici Pizza and Pasta, which has been sold several times since then. He lived in an apartment above the restaurant and Robert DeNiro discovered him there and cast him in Martin Scorsese’s 1980 movie “Raging Bull.”
Cerini Coffee and Gifts has one of the biggest selections of Italian coffees and kitchen items anyone could want. This is where I bought my Cucina Pro pizzelle maker several years ago. This time I couldn’t leave there this time without a pound of their own coffee, which they freshly ground for me.
Fine cigars are made by hand inside the Arthur Avenue Retail market where everyone is friendly and takes time to talk with you. The atmosphere made me want to spend even more time with the people there.
The Original Arthur Avenue Italian Deli was the perfect spot for lunch this visit, and the menu seems endless. I could not have been more pleased with my choice of a caprese salad.
If you are there at the right time you can watch fresh pasta being made in Borgatti Ravioli and Egg Noodles, where they have perfected the process with 80 years of experience.
And don’t miss the family-owned Zagat-rated Enzo’s, or Palombo’s Bakery for a cannoli and cappuccino!
Just wandering around these streets of Arthur Avenue, east 187th and Hughes gave me the same feeling as though I were back in Italy.
Don’t miss the opportunity to spend a day on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx on your next visit to New York City. It’s definitely worth the ride.
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Grazie and ciao.
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