Monday, September 30, 2019

A is for: Arthur Ave Food Crawl {Bronx Little Italy}

One of my favorite things about living in New York City is that there is no shortage of amazing Italian food.

We are a stone's throw from Lilia and often frequent Barano. I love hitting up the West Village to dine at popular spots like Don Angie, i Sodi and Via Carota. And on my birthday this year, we checked out newcomer Rezdora.

But if you reaaaaally want to experience NYC Italian culture, then you need to make a trip to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. It's the Little Italy that Manhattan's Little Italy would love to be but probably never will.

It's also where Justin and I had one of our first dates. At the time, I was still living in Connecticut, so I would often make the trek to NYC on the weekends. One of those occasions, we rendezvoused in the Bronx. We've since returned two other times with friends, and as I type this I'm realizing it's been far too long since our last visit.

Where to begin: Arthur Avenue Retail Market
On all three of our Arthur Ave field trips, we've started at the Arthur Avenue Retail Market. It's a great place to meet up with friends, and also an excellent spot to start your self-guided Little Italy food tour, as there are several food purveyors inside. Let this blog post serve as your official guide!

Pro-tip: While some places do accept credit cards, many of these spots are cash-only... so plan accordingly!

Stop #1: Grab a beer and some Italian sandwiches: Mike's Deli & Bronx Beer Hall
My two go-to spots inside the market are Mike's Deli (also sometimes called Greco's) and the Bronx Beer Hall. Most of the seating is communal, so you can plop down at one of the tables in front of the bar, order some local beer and some food from Greco's. (Or you can also walk over and order on your own to bring back.) I would recommend either the eggplant parm (left) or the Italian combo (right.) If you are planning on making several stops on your food tour, definitely share one sandwich between 3-4 people. (You have to save room... so much more eating ahead!)

Stop #2: Share a Pie: Zero Otto Nove
When I asked my favorite Bronx girl (aka Sarina Morales), where to go in the Bronx, her mom supplied us with a list of places to go, but said that Zero Otto Nove was her favorite spot for pizza. There is actually one in Manhattan that is also very good... but for some reason, the atmosphere and the location of the Arthur Ave spot just seems more authentic to me. You can't go wrong with any of the pies, and the pasta looked pretty good too. (But hold off on the pasta if possible... remember, you still have more stops!)

Stop #3: Hit up a Red Sauce Joint (Tra Di Noi)
You will have no issues locating red sauce fare on Arthur Ave... basically if you close your eyes and walk into the first place you touch, you probably can't go wrong. That said, probably my favorite is technically not ON Arthur Ave, but right around the corner on East 187th St. Justin and I dined here on that very first Bronx adventure, and I've been dreaming about that lasagna bolognese ever since. Tra di Noi is somewhat a newcomer to the Bronx Little Italy food scene, but Chef Marco was born in Italy and has over 50 years of culinary experience. He happened to be sitting at a nearby table on our visit, and I do think it somehow added to our experience. That said, those delicate sheets of pasta filled with cheese and the most perfect bolognese is something I will never forget! (It's also one of the only red sauce spots to take credit cards... albeit with a $20 minimum.)

Pro-tip: If you do end up here over one of the more established red-sauce spots listed below, skip ahead to stop #7, as it's almost next door to Borgatti's Ravioli and also not too far from Casa Della Mozzarella.

Red Sauce options, continued: Mario's, Dominick's & Enzo's
The "Big 3" as far as Arthur Avenue red sauce joints is concerned are: Mario's, Dominicks and Enzo's. I've eaten at two of them, but I honestly couldn't tell you which is which. More than likely, it will be cash only, so be prepared for that. You may or may not be given a menu (sometimes it will just be a verbal rundown of the daily offerings), but one thing is for certain... you will leave very satisfied and full of carbs and red sauce.

And yet another option: Roberto's
I have yet to eat here, but we wandered in on one of our Arthur Ave excursions to grab a glass of wine and the place was hoppin'. It's from the same owners as Zero Otto Nove (the pizza place), so I assume the food will be top notch. It's located on Crescent Avenue... just off of Arthur Ave.

Stop #4: Get dessert to go at an Italian Bakery (Madonia Brothers)
A trip to Little Italy would not be complete without some Italian baked goods. Probably the most popular and well known spot is Madonia Brothers Bakery, especially known for its cannolis. They will hand fill them to order and dust them with powdered sugar before boxing them up for you.

Other options: Terranova is said to be known for their for pane di casa & also the olive bread. Artuso Pastry shop is another delicious option.

Stop #5: Meat Chandelier (Calabria Pork Store)
At this point, you're probably positively stuffed, so it's time to start thinking about ways to bring Arthur Ave home with you! Be sure to check out the "meat chandelier"... aka the Calabria Pork Store to grab some charcuterie. I'm pretty much obsessed with their spicy sopressata, and they are also very well known for their spreadable "nduja" and the culatello (which is prosciutto's funkier little cousin.)

Stop #6: Say Cheeeeeeese (Casa Della Mozzarella)  
It would just be wrong to get meats without also getting some cheeses to compliment them. And while Calabria Pork Store also sells cheese, I recommend walking around the corner to East 187th to Casa Della Mozzarella. As the name suggests, they are sought out for their hand stretched mozzarella and burrata which are pulled to order. (They also do bocconcini, which are the smaller mozarella balls.) There will likely be a wait, but it's more than worth it, so grab a number and peruse their other Italian grocery items while you wait. (I often grab some DOP San Marzano tomatoes.)They also feature several other cheeses aside from the mozzarella, so by all means... load up!

Stop #7: Raviolis for the road (Borgattis)
Last, but certainly not least... Borgattis Raviolis! DO NOT SKIP THIS STOP. The only reason I leave it for the end (aside "best for last" and all that), is that these need to be kept refrigerated, so it's better to grab them right before heading home (unless you are dining at Tra di Noi, which is essentially next door.) I have purchased raviolis from Borgattis on all three of my Bronx Little Italy visits and that tradition will continue for as long as I make this Bronx trek. They've been pumping out filled pastas since 1935 so I would venture to say they know what they're doing. If you want a taste of the Bronx but can't quite make it there, you can also order their pasta online. My favorite are the large-style ravioli pictured above.

Have you ever been to Arthur Ave? If so, what are your favorite spots? I would love to hear about any that I've missed in the comments section below!

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