A Culinary Stroll on Arthur Avenue

If you want to cultivate the pleasures of discovering real food in New York, plan on repeat visits to Arthur Avenue, a culinary destination in the Bronx. Located within a geographical crescent that encompasses E. 187th Street and other nearby thoroughfares, Arthur Avenue increasingly represents one of the last vestiges of an authentic Italian New York neighborhood. And even if the old neighborhood, known as Belmont, is increasingly graced with non-Italian food establishments, more power to it. It's all about sharing good food here, enjoyed in the company of friends and family and locals.

A window at Tino's Delicatessen, 2410 Arthur Ave

With the rise of a new wave of food halls in the city, especially those revolving around celebrity chefs, Arthur Avenue can still be enjoyed as an Old World market shopping street experience. For mozzarella, you want to go to one favorite place, and for cannoli, you may like another. Friends and family will state opinions and make arguments about which is best. This is as it should be, and for every topic of importance  - the best production of a favorite opera, the best mozzarella, the best pignoli cookies, and so forth. Any discussion of Arthur Avenue and vicinity elicits this kind of give-and-take argumentation.

At Trattoria Zero Otto Nove, 2357 Arthur Ave
On Arthur Avenue you'll likely find students and staff from Fordham University, located just to the north, side-by-side with long-time residents and recent newcomers. Others come from far afield, drawn back to the neighborhood to visit their favorite shops and restaurants. On a recent visit, I overheard several conversations in Italian between women on the street, a rarity now in Manhattan’s Little Italy or in Greenwich Village, another long-time bastion of Italian-American culture. Nevertheless, the demographics have been shifting in this area as well, and this sort of scene may fade here, too.

Arthur Avenue near E. 186th Street
To master the art of efficient fine dining and quality food shopping, you would do well to abide by the following rule: For anything that costs real money, patronize establishments that serve up tastier dishes than what you could manage at home. For example, I don't have a wood-burning oven like the one at Trattoria Zero Otto Nove (2357 Arthur Ave) to fire up a classic Margherita pie nor can I easily locate mozzarella of the quality made by Casa Della Mozzarella (604 E 187th St.).

A properly wrapped deli sandwich from Bronx's Little Italy

A slice of Sicilian pizza from Full Moon Pizzeria (600 E 187th at Arthur Ave) tastes like no other. I can bake fairly good biscotti from scratch, but not in the variety and quantities presented at Madonia Brothers Bakery (2348 Arthur Ave). Try their cannoli and olive bread, too. Simon's Deli, a small establishment on Arthur Avenue at E. 189th, features a hefty burger and sandwich menu, including a grilled chicken sandwich with lots of balsamic vinegar. 

You'll discover your own favorites when you get here. I've only given you a taste of Arthur Avenue.

Map note: A visit to Arthur Avenue can be easily bundled with a trip to the New York Botanical Garden or the Bronx Zoo.

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from September 2016.

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