Lined with delis, bakeries and Italian merchants with stacks of Calabrese Cheese, Arthur Avenue in the Bronx is the real Little Italy in New York. The historical and commercial center for Little Italy for years, this Bronx neighborhood is one of the largest Italian-American communities in the United States. While lesser known than Little Italy in downtown Manhattan, this gritty Little Italy is still thriving and authentic today. Here you will not only find (and be able to sample) a huge array of oozing mozzarella, fresh salamis and fettuccini cut to order, you will also be met with little old Italian ladies in flowered aprons and men in jackets proudly proclaiming “Arthur Avenue since 1936.” The avenue is also home to great cafes, restaurants aplenty and is always full of character.
The neighborhood dates back to a time when thousands of Italian immigrants came streaming into New York through Ellis Island, many of whom settled in this area of the Bronx known as Belmont. Arthur Avenue flourished as the Italian immigrant community shared their passion for good food with one another and the rest of New York. In fact, many Italian immigrants sold food products (like meats, cheeses and pasta) from pushcarts until 1940, when Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia built the indoor Arthur Avenue Market to get the street vendors out of the cold. Today, the market is still sells a plethora of authentic Italian food items and many families have been running businesses here for generations. With freshly baked breads, salamis hanging tantalizing from ceilings, homemade pasta sauces, freshly sliced prosciutto and aromatic cheeses, this market should not be missed by any food lover visiting New York.
Arthur Avenue is also home to some fantastic fish markets. Randazzo’s and Cosenza’s on Arthur Avenue below 186th have mini raw bars where you can eat freshly shucked oysters sprinkled with lemon right on the street. You can also find wine vendors, coffee roasters and pastry shops. What gives Arthur Avenue its charm, however, is that unlike the Little Italy in Manhattan, Arthur Avenue has not ceded much of its turf to restaurateurs. In fact, the avenue is much more famous for its ingredients and its stand-up delis and raw bars on the street than its sit down restaurants. Makes me hungry just thinking about it.
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After a visit to Arthur Avenue you are sure to have dreams about fresh raviolis, Parmigiano cut to order, delis with meat dangling from the ceilings, perfect olives and cannolis dusted with powdered sugar. If you can’t make it across the Atlantic to the real Italy, this place is probably your best bet for finding authentic (and totally delicious) Italian food.