I recently took a foodwalk with a couple of my favorite fellow foodwalkers to explore what is known by many as New York's real Little Italy and referred to simply as "Arthur Avenue." North of Manhattan in New York's northernmost borough, the Belmont area of the Bronx is a mixed neighborhood that offers a gritty view of one of those parts of the city that supports all others. And buried in the center of it all, starting at 187th Street from Arthur Avenue across to Prospect Avenue, is an age-old enclave of tight-knit neighbors and crowded shops offering some of the best Italian eats in New York..
Here we found bakeries, old school butchers and fishmongers selling the freshest stuff in town the same way they have done for generations. Sausages hang from tin ceilings beside enormous balls and tubers of cheese coated in wax. Wheels of even more cheese, from pale white, to yellow, to ancient hues of orange are stacked high on stainless counters encasing rows of sliced meats, sausages rolled into pinwheels, cut steaks, lamb and pork chops, hunks of ruby-red beef and roasts rolled and tied with string. Tiny quail line up with shiny rabbits, glistening liver, kidneys and mounds of honeycombed tripe white as snow. Full carcasses hang in the windows, along with blanched cows feet, the occasional sheep's head and, or course, more sausages.
Pasta shops intersperse the many merchants along both 187th and Arthur Ave, where we found nearly every fresh-made or imported pasta imaginable, as well as prepared dishes like lasagna, baked ziti and a variety of ravioli. In the middle of the block is the cavernous Arthur Avenue Retail Market, selling everything from fruit and vegetables, to pasta, meats, fish, olives, espressos and even cigars, hand-rolled on the spot by a few Dominican guys. At Casa Dela Mozzarella I was quizzed on what made their signature cheese so special. Around the corner we gazed with wonder at Calandra Cheese Shop's ceiling of sausage. A block down, in front of Consenza's fish market, we savored a variety of oysters and clams, fresh-shucked and slurped loudly. Nearby I sampled sopressatta, pepperonis and other Italian sausages thrust upon me by Nino Madonna, who's been making customers happy at Vincent's Meat Market for more than 55 years. A visit to each shop on Arthur Avenue begins a new story for all who enter, leaving them with -- in addition to delicious Italian food -- great memories from New York's real Little Italy.
To get a glimpse of what Arthur Avenue has to offer, see this Foodwalkers video on Youtube.