Forget Mott and Mulberry Streets: Arthur Avenue, in the Belmont section of the Bronx, has been New York City’s real Little Italy since the turn of the last century, when immigrants moved there to build the nearby New York Botanical Garden and Bronx Zoo. Today, its butchers, bakers, cheesemakers and fishmongers show no signs of slowing down.
In fact, it feels a lot like Manhattan’s Little Italy did decades ago: a foodie destination with heart, where shoppers and shopkeepers know each other and even remember your order.
“There’s no other place in the city with so many businesses that have been there for between 40 and 100 years,” says Danielle Oteri, whose family once owned a butcher shop on the street and who now runs Arthur Avenue Food Tours. “The fact that it’s primarily Italian food is almost just a bonus.”
If you take a trip up to Arthur Avenue, bring an appetite; budget a few hours for walking, talking, tasting and shopping; and be sure to stop in at these six places, generations old and still the very best at what they do.
With shelves piled high with imported goods and aproned men behind a counter offering hunks of cheese or olives from barrels, Teitel Brothers is a classic dry-goods store that could easily form the backdrop of an old-world movie.
Come here for your truffles in season (their guy comes straight from the airport via Italy, so the aromatic tartufi are offered at their freshest) and their own brands of olive oil, perfect for pairing with crusty bread or for drizzling over grilled vegetables.
Joe’s Italian Deli
Waltz past the aisles of canned San Marzano tomatoes, olive pastes and oil-packed tuna to the back of this intimate deli and lunch counter, where nubbly salamis hang above huge wheels of cheese.
Gregarious shopkeepers will ask you your name and your life story as they slice up fiery soppressata, Prima Donna cheese (a flavor cross between gouda and parmesan), or moliterno di tartufo (pecorino laced with black truffle) or put the city’s best mozzarella in water for you to take home.
Calabria Pork Store
One of the only New York businesses with a permit to cure its own meat, the Calabria Pork Store is adorned with what locals refer to as a sausage “chandelier”: hundreds of them hang from the ceiling to dry.
You can get any cut of meat here, as well as ground meat for meatballs and Bolognese, but the thing to try is those sausages, either sweet or spicy. They’re an entirely local creation, perfect for pairing with cheese or simply snacking on as you make your way farther down Arthur Avenue.
You can get fresh pasta just about anywhere in NYC these days, but where can you get it cut to order, according to numbers on a chart representing noodle thickness?
At Borgatti Ravioli, you can pick up filled ravioli or layers of fresh sheets to make your own lasagna, but there’s nothing quite like telling them, “I’ll have a pound of the number 4,” and watching as industrial-size squares of egg dough are fed into a gigantic pasta machine and transformed into delicate, millimeter-thick spaghetti.
Egidio Pastry Shop
This bakery recently graced the cover of The New Yorker, and it’s easy to see why: It’s full of colorful treats, like rainbow cookies made with the shop’s own fresh marzipan, pignoli cookies decked out with pine nuts, and some of the best cannoli around, baked and filled with ricotta according to a century-old secret recipe.
In summer, nothing quite beats a scoop of their own gelato, and if you need a caffeine pick-me-up, Egidio even sells one of the area’s best cappuccinos.
Arthur Avenue Retail Market
This retail market with multiple dry-goods tables, fruit and vegetable stalls, and prepared food counters got its start in 1940, when Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia decided to give Arthur Avenue’s many street hawkers their own year-round indoor space.
Here’s where you can buy cardoons and bitter puntarella greens, bouquets of dried chilis, hand-rolled cigars, or hot pizza and chicken Parm from Café al Mercato, an unassuming counter in the back.