The Arthur Avenue Cookbook: Recipes and Memories from the Real Little Italy Hardcover – Aug 17 2004
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About the Author
Ann Volkwein is a food and lifestyle writer based in New York City and Austin, Texas, who also collaborated with Guy on his four previous books.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
But then, we weren't in New York City.
There is a Little Italy in Manhattan, and we have been there. So have you, if you've ever been a tourist in New York and have already crossed Times Square off your list. That Little Italy is noisy and friendly and mildly amusing, and if you are lucky enough to pick a restaurant that doesn't get its red sauce from some central pipeline, you can get a decent meal there.
But it doesn't compare to Arthur Avenue.
Arthur Avenue is in the Bronx, near Fordham University and the Zoo. For a Manhattanite, it's a field trip that not many undertake. For the neighborhood's shopkeepers and restaurateurs, it's home --- probably for three generations. And that makes all the difference.
They filmed scenes from "The Godfather" on Arthur Avenue. More recently, "The Sopranos" dropped by. George Bush, Rudy Giuliani and George Pataki shared a pizza here. It's time travel to come to Arthur Avenue: waiters in tuxedos, valet parking and presents --- like "silver" bracelets --- for the kiddies.
Ann Volkwein visited the mom-and-pop shops. She ate in the restaurants. And she talked to everyone. Her book is essentially a profile of a small town in Southern Italy, where businesses stay in families and you look out for your neighbor and there's no better reason to get together than a meal.
Volkwein's profiles, accompanied by Vegar Abelsnes's evocative photgraphs, are a delight; you'll meet great characters. More to the point, you'll learn about the restaurants and the shops so, when you visit, you can have a personal exchange.
But most to the point: the recipes. This is Southern Italian cooking, It lacks the "refinement" of Northern cuisine. And although there are lovely photos of vegetables and a side order of eggplant at any restaurant here will be the size of a flying saucer, you won't find many vegetable recipes in these pages. The buzz words are "hearty" and "authentic" and "carbohydrates."
What recipe to serve up? What else than meat sauce? But imagine it served by a waiter who is not also an actor, a waiter who's going to be wearing that tuxedo for decades. Enjoy!
Great memories, great recipes. Fun book to look through. A must have if you love true Italian cooking.
It's permanently on the counter right next to my WEEKEND BAKER cookbook.
PS: I have to add a negative. In my opinion, a few of the recipes leave out *just a little bit*. I noticed in the pignoli cookies, for example, I believe the instruction should say "beat the egg whites", it does not tell you to do that. I have found the same in another recipe. Just my opinion, but I think there is a little secret keeping. I still recommend this book, there are truly marvelous recipes to be enjoyed.
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.