Daycation Destination: Arthur Avenue, da Bronx
Back in da Bronx for a little bit of Italia and some good eats.
Since New Milford has become my main beat, I have learned so much. Most of all, I've learned that many of you hail from the land east of the Hudson River--home of the Bronx Bombers, Fordham University, and Ladder 33/Engine 75, famously known to firefighters everywhere as “Animal House.”
Which is why we're taking a daytrip to Arthur Avenue this week. If you don't know what Arthur Avenue is, GO. If a tear dropped from your eye just reading its name, GO BACK. NOW.
Arthur Avenue isn't a street--it's a gastronomic Italian adventure; a Fellini-esque La Dolce Vida frolicking of your tastebuds in the Trevi Fountain. Leave your high blood pressure, high cholesterol and all other ailments in Joyzee. Do bring your wallet and your appetite.
The place to start is inside "the market." The market is, como se dice, a trip back to the old country. Butchers selling every animal organ imaginable; crates of fresh fruits, vegetables, olives; hanging sausages and cheeses; and small circular tables grouped throughout the market where men, who appear to work very hard at not working very hard, in buttoned-down shirts and starched collars sip leisurely on an espresso. Did I mention they sip leisurely?
However, the reason you go to the market is for Mike. For as long as I can remember, most Saturdays were spent at Mike's deli counter getting the weekly assortment of salumi--salami, prosciutto, pepperoni, soppressata, capicola...capiche? How many Easter weeks were spent watching Mike carve the pounds and pounds of meats and cheeses for your grandmother's Easter pies?
You will always find Mike behind the counter belting out a beautiful aria and sipping on a glass of red wine while taking your order or directing one of his four children, who work behind the counter with him.
In 1948 Michele “Mike” Greco came to Arthur Avenue from Calabria, where he worked in a butcher shop owned and operated by the Cappiello family since 1919. There Mike fell in love with and married Antionette Cappiello and began to work the deli in 1955. By 1969 he took ownership of it and Mike’s Deli was born.
You can't possibly leave Mike's without ordering his famous Yankee Stadium Big Boy. Bronx firefighters line the counter waiting for one of these bad boys and once you've had a taste, so will you.
A few steps out of the market is the bread store--Madonia Brothers. Prosciutto bread, cheese breads, semolina, ciabatta...you name it. Carbs rule inside this little bread market, so be forewarned.
Madonia Brothers has been providing New Yorkers (and all us transplants across the river) with freshly-baked crusty Italian loafs and breads since 1918.
If it's seafood you're looking for then Cosenza's Fish Market has the freshest catches of the day. Whether they're outside shucking clams for you to eat standing on the sidewalk or you're inside getting your shrimp and baccala, Cosenza's is a family seafood tradition.
But the place to be on a warm summer afternoon or evening is Umberto's Clam House. This is where you go and just feast on fresh clams and oysters while sipping wine. This is where you go to enjoy the quiet of great food and good company while you watch the Bronx walk by you. This is the place you play hookey from work to go to on a Thursday afternoon. Not that we're giving you any ideas. Just saying. This editor had fun tutto solo!
There's also Ann & Tony's and Enzo's--two restaurants that are pillars of Arthur Avenue, but on a hot summer day, Umberto's is our choice.
Bottom line--get in the car, suffer the GWB traffic and get yourself to Arthur Avenue. Just seven miles from the GWB--it's the closest you can get to Italy without needing a passport and luggage.
- Take GWB to Cross Bronx Expressway/95
- Take Webster Ave exit and make a left at bottom of ramp
- Take Webster to 187th Street and make right
- Arthur Avenue cuts through 187th.
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