Just under an hour’s drive from Fairfield County, this most authentic “Little Italy” in the city is bursting with incredible Italian shopping and eateries. And I have no friggin’ idea why it took me this long to finally visit Arthur Avenue in the Bronx!
Perhaps my hesitation was that I knew nothing about Arthur Avenue’s gems – and wanted desperately for someone to show me the way the first time. After numerous plans with many friends (who were well-versed on Arthur Ave) fizzled out … I decided to take matters into my own hands. A Walking Tour of Arthur Avenue offered by ICE (Institute of Culinary Education) was the perfect answer!
So off we went (my honey and I) one rainy Saturday afternoon – coz a little rain wasn’t going to get in my way. No sir!
Giovanna, our very knowledgeable and very pasionate guide, took us though this fascinating neighborhood as she narrated interesting historical facts and stories about the early Italian settlers in the area. At every turn, and at every stop on the tour, I was dazzled by the incredible finds. Like Randazzo fish market loaded with such unusual fish that I don’t usually see in average fish stores. Think Uni! Think fishes like Rosamarina! What tha?!!!
Borgatti’s the home of fresh/homemade ravioli and egg noodles blew me away. The elderly aunt standing behind the counter taking orders was absolutely priceless. I just knew that the pasta I buy here will have history, heart and soul!
The Arthur Avenue Retail Market was our initial meeting spot – and I could not believe the goodies hiding in there. The butcher shop was loaded with such interesting and unusual parts of the animal – parts that Italians love to cook with, but the rest of us just discard as unusable. Giovanna told us so many interesting recipes and ways to extract delicious flavors out of these gems.
Chef David Greco of Mike’s Deli, a celebrity in his own right who has appeared on multiple food-shows on TV, gave us a brilliant cheese making demo. We got to taste lots of great varieties of cheese at his store. I loved that he knew his every customer by name and where they are from – even the ones that were calling in orders! It was the kind of experience that makes you feel like you belong… and so you are going to keep coming back for more.
Our lunch was provided by Mike’s Deli, followed by the most incredible cannoli and cheese cake I have ever had. Simple flavors – not overly sweet – but what made these desserts extraordinary was the fresh ricotta used. OMG!!! These desserts are a must try! Here is a good example of how the best bites are usually made of the freshest ingredients instead of the most expensive ones.
I loved how Giovanna shared tons and tons of recipes with us as we toured various shops and markets. She pointed out the best buys at Teitel Bros. grocery store. “That large jar of artichokes is the best value for your money”, she said, “and here is what you do with it…”. Aaah! I was in love!
One of the most memorable experiences during this whole tour was the visit to a church built in 1906. Our Lady Of Mount Carmel – where Italian families (even the ones that have since moved out of the area) still come back for service and to get married. It was simply beautiful and standing inside the church made me feel like I was in some old town of Italy.
The tour lasted about 4 hours- with a nice long break for lunch, coffee and desserts. If you are an Arthur Avenue novice, I highly recommend this tour. And after the tour is done – plan to linger and explore some more (with the handy tips Giovanna shares with you – you will be able to do this like a pro).
Arthur Avenue Walking tour | http://recreational.ice.edu/Courses/Detail/560