22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Arthur Avenue Guy
- Published on Amazon.com
For most of my life, a trip to Little Italy meant going to Mulberry Street. Vincent's was always the best NYC restaurant to me, with Umberto's a close second. I also loved all the shops with the Italian items and the very friendly merchants (especially friendly if they know their customer has some Italian blood). I also loved the San Gennaro feast, but could usually never even walk an inch through the thing because of so many people there.
About a year or so ago, I discovered the REAL Little Italy in the Bronx. I've been to The Bronx Zoo and being a die-hard Yankee fan, I've been to River Avenue hundreds of times. I've driven through Arthur Ave but never actually stopped to check things out. I figured, what could top Mulberry Street? I've been to Little Italy in Boston and Baltimore, both of which are not as good as Manhattan. But the Bronx section is better and I proclaim that the Bronx is the best NYC borough overall (I hope to check out City Island soon).
First of all, Manhattan Little Italy is TERRIBLE for parking. You can never find a spot and must park in an expensive garage. Second, as I said, I love San Genarro, but it has become too jammed packed with tourists. In the Bronx you will ALWAYS find a parking spot. Maybe not exactly in front of where you are going, but you will always find one nearby. Plus, it takes me about twenty minutes with no traffic to get to the Bronx by car from North Jersey and it takes well over a half hour to Manhattan. The Bronx has 3 summer feasts, all of which are far less jammed than San Gennarro and just as good. Oh, and did I mention that Umberto's Clam House has opened a second location right on Arthur Ave which is also just as good? So I now have no real reason to venture to Mulberry Street.
But now let me talk about the heart of the area, the real greatness about it, that you don't really have in Manhattan. I'm talking about the smaller neighborhood feel even though there are tons more merchants around. For every 4 social clubs and espresso caffes on Mulberry Street, there are 7 in the Bronx. For every 3 clothing shops, there are about 6 in the Bronx. Same deal with the Italian souviner stores with their movies and music, aprons, cooking stuff, and many other things. There just seems to be so much more, and everything is so much more authentic and not "touristy." But this all doesn't make it more congested at all...
It's so refreshing to enjoy the simple delight of walking up and down 187th Street and Arthur Ave and passing by the Mount Carmel Church and all the bakeries and delis. And you will not be dissapointed with any of the food, I guarantee you that, especially if you are a true goomba. Everything in every place here is special and great just like your grandmother would make. From the clams and calamari to the pasta, pizza, fresh breads and pastries, and everything else, you will love it all. The Arthur Avenue Market is a rare treasure that you don't see anymore with the "Mc Donaldization" of society and all the chain stores and eateries that overrun most of the mom and pop establishments.
I'd highly recommend Joe's Deli for the mozzarella, Full Moon Pizza for the ahbeetz, GianTina's for the chicken parmigian, Umberto's for the baked clams and calamari, Madonia Bros. for delicious baked breads and cookies, and Rigolleto's and Mario's for great food and especially the ambiance. There are so many places that I haven't mentioned. Capri Gifts, the Catholic Goods store, and on and on and on.
Words can't explain the sights, the smells, the feelings and mainly, the TASTE of all the foods. You can try to make the recipes in this book but you won't get the experience that you'd get by visiting the REAL Little Italy on your own. It's been there for a hundred years for so many generations and I hope my kids and grandkids can experience it someday.