When most people think of Little Italy, they picture Lower Manhattan. A place once filled with Italian mom-and-pop shops and restaurants is now one we studiously avoid, packed as it is with tourists who come to have that “authentic” Italian experience.
Don’t tell them that the real Little Italy is far uptown, along Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. Just take the 4 or D train all the way up past Grand Central, past 125th Street, and yes, even past Yankee Stadium. Once you reach Fordham Road you can take an express bus or walk to Arthur Avenue. Bring your appetite and somewhere to stash all the food you’ll be bringing home.
So you have taken the 4 or D train all the way up to Fordham Road; you have either walked or taken a bus to Arthur Ave, now what? Well since we’re New Yorkers, we need caffeine in our system to wake up up after the long train ride. There’s no better place to start than at Palombo Pastry Shop Cafe. Grab a chocolate cannoli or some tiramisu along with a large ice coffee. The sugar and caffeine rush will help you shake off fatigue from the long train ride, while still leaving room for a protein fix. On then…
TWO WORDS: SAUSAGE CAVE
One trip to Arthur Avenue for cheese and meat and you may never go back to Trader Joe’s. Look for the glass door with the red pig outline. Inside, hundreds of sausages dangle from the ceiling. Calabria Pork Store is not for vegan friends. Once you walk in, you are overcome with the smell of sausage. You can grab yourself some Italian bacon or fresh pepperoni, but if you really want your money’s worth, you better take home some of their locally famous hot sopressata (with that many letters it has to be good) which will only run you seven bucks a pound.
ALL THE CHEESE
Nothing goes better with spicy sausage than some good, fresh cheese. Ask any Italian person you know. After you get yourself some fresh hot sopressata, take a short walk over to Calandra’s. If you’re a cheese expert, well you will probably feel like this is heaven, as this is about as traditional as you can get, with fresh mozzarella, ricotta and cacciocavallo (same letter rules that apply to meat, also apply to cheese). Most of their cheeses sell for less than ten bucks a pound, which is a steal considering their freshness. If you’re a novice, well don’t worry — the shop owner will gladly provide some samples for you. Now that you’ve got some sausage and some cheese, you need to find something to wash it down with.
“IF ANYONE ORDERS MERLOT, I’M LEAVING. I AM NOT DRINKING ANY F#%&$G MERLOT!”
Even if you’re not Paul Giamatti, wine is important, as people who attend many an event with free wine can tell you, free wine “tastes like the back of a f$@%^g L.A. school bus.” you really have to spend money to drink anything decent and in Little Italy, you can certainly do so by checking out Mt. Carmel Wine, which offers a selection of rare Italian wines that you can’t find anywhere in the city. Prices vary, you can be a big shot and purchase wine for $50 or more. Or you can play is safe and get some traditional Italian wine for a little under $10.
You got some sausage, cheese and some wine, now if you want to impress the people you’ll be serving at your future Prospect Park picnic, you need to get some fresh bread to compliment the other things you’ve already purchased today. There is no place in the city (yeah, we said it) better than Addeo Bakers. For 80 years, now being run by second generation bread-makers, it’s the best place to get olive bread, chocolate bread and even bread with little pieces of ham in it. Every other weekend they have some new specialty bread on sale, which has lead us to make the journey to stand in line and get what we need for our work week sandwiches. Nothing here will make your wallet wimper, so don’t be afraid to go crazy on the Olive bread, you’ll want to have some for yourself.
SANDWICHES + BEER = EXTRA DELICIOUS
You got your cheese, meat, bread and wine. You probably went back to Palombo to refill your batteries in between all that, but now you find that you’re pretty hungry. You could start ripping into that bread, cheese sausage and wine, but what about the other seven people living in your eight room apartment; the people you promised you would bring back something from your day out in the Bronx? It’s also getting kind of late, you have a long train ride ahead of you and you don’t want to do it sober. Thankfully there is a place in Arthur Ave, that will fill your belly and your thirst for alcohol.
The Arthur Avenue Retail Market is pretty much another Little Italy, inside Little Italy. Cured meats, fresh cheese, cigars, fresh fruits, if there is one place in Little Italy you have to visit, it’s the market. Opened by none other than Fiorello LaGuardia in the ’30s, the Market has a rich history and is one of the few WIP markets left in the city. For your foodie needs, we say you head over to Mike’s to get yourself an authentic Italian sub. Our personal favorite is “Hilary Clinton’s Favorite”: in between two slices of fresh Italian seeded bread, is a combination of salami, fresh mozzarella, sun dried tomatoes, and sweet peppers. All for six dollars, about half of what you’ll pay in Subway or Potbelly in the city. Say you want it nice and hot and then head over to the beer hall.
The Bronx Beer Hall is a newer business in Arthur Avenue. Founded by two Parkchester natives, it has quickly become one of the best places to drink beer in a borough that doesn’t have many options when it comes to quality bars. You won’t find any Heineken or Coors Light here, the beer hall sells craft beer from local breweries in and around the Bronx. Want some IPA, they got some from ABC Brewery; Rye Pale Ale, from the hometown Bronx Brewery; Wheat Beer from Gun Hill Brewery and Belgian Black Ale from a brewery in Saratoga. If you want some wine, well you’re in luck, the Beer Hall sells white and red from old classics like Brotherhood Winery and from fresh faces in the wine scene such as Sadat X’s True Wine Connoisseurs brand.
See The Bronx is not all bad, or scary. It actually has places to go that isn’t filled with annoying tourists and a good meal won’t cost you three times as much as you expect.
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