Waiting in Line Just to Get In to Shop

I’m interested in the health of Italian-American communities across the country so I travelled from Manhattan to the outer borough of the Bronx to check out a neighborhood I’ve heard about for a long time but never visited.

Arthur Avenue is a vibrant Italian community in the Belmont section of the Bronx. While lower Manhattan’s Little Italy has shrunk to a 2 1/2 block stage-set, Arthur Avenue is booming and as true to its Italian immigrant roots as ever.

The Italian population has dwindled and Belmont is much more diverse, but the core around Arthur Avenue and 187th Street is vibrant with dozens of delis, butcher shops, cheese stores, pasta places and bakeries galore.

There are still some long-time residents and their kids living here. Those who have moved away to the suburbs come back to shop. I was amazed to see long lines outside of the markets and bakeries waiting to get in to do their shopping.

If you’re hungry before you shop you can choose one of old-fashioned restaurants like Dominick’s where you sit at communal tables or Umberto’s Clam Bar, a transplant from lower Manhattan’s Little Italy. Roberto’s is more upscale and modern and it’s offshoot Zero Otto Nove, a new pizzeria/trattoria has been getting rave reviews in the New York City press, no minor accomplishment.

Now that you belly is full, grab an espresso at the bustling Caffe De Lillo and hit the markets and bakeries so you make a great meal at home.

Strong traditions abound in Belmont. Ask 5 people where to get the best bread or Italian pastries and you’ll get 5 different answers. Every family has their favorite. Want fresh mozzarella or burrata? You must go to Casa di Mozzarella. Need fresh pasta?  Only Borgotti’s Ravioli and Egg Noodles will do. Don’t miss the indoor Retail Market, a bunch of different food stalls all under one roof that was spear-headed by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. We bought great salumi and cheeses at Mike’s Deli to take back to Manhattan for dinner.

These places wrap your purchases in paper and tie it up with string. They total your order with a pencil on a brown paper bag. The merchants have been doing it this way for a hundred years.

Thank God things change slowly on Arthur Avenue — truly The Real Little Italy in New York City. Be sure you visit when you’re in the Big Apple. You won’t be disappointed.