Contrary to popular belief, the real Little Italy does not exist in Manhattan. If you want a real taste of Italy, literally and figuratively, you go to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. Specifically Arthur Avenue and 187th street. Here you will find not only some of the best Italian restaurants in New York, but even better – the closest food shopping experience you’ll get to a real Italian market.
Both of my parents grew up in the Bronx and my mom’s parents owned a discount store, Terrigno Discounts, on the street for 36 years. So my family is a bit biased when it comes to this area being considered the real little Italy. But…we are right. So there.
Every Thursday my mom takes her mom food shopping for the week to ‘the neighborhood’, as they like to call it. They go both for the food and the familiarity. It’s a small area – only a few blocks long – but you get the feeling the people that live on those few blocks have been there most of their lives. It’s a beautiful thing to walk this street and see how alive the culture still is regardless of being surrounded by some of the worst areas in NY. This tiny gem of a place has been getting smaller and smaller over the years – but it still stands. And the shops that live on these blocks haven’t missed a beat in over 40 years.
Below is a small taste of what it’s like here and what wonderful things these unassuming businesses have to offer. In order of appearance, Biancardi’s Butcher Shop, Teitel Brother’s Deli – fresh imported cured meats, olives, cheeses…you can make this your only stop and be completely satisfied, Casa Della Mozzarella – I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, best mozzarella here in the states. They make it fresh. Addeo Bread and an old fashioned Market.
My grandparents ran their business along with all of these guys. Meaning, the owners of these great places are in their 80’s at least. A lot of them came over from Italy just like my grandparents and have now passed their businesses onto their children. I fear that when this generation passes on we’ll lose the charm of these few blocks bit by bit. What keeps it alive are the people that have poured their heart and soul into each store front due to the immense pride they all have in their culture. No one left when the neighborhood got bad. They all stayed and their businesses are still thriving. Not to mention this is one of the only areas I’ve ever heard of where a Mcdonald’s could not survive and was swiftly replaced with a trattoria. They did whatever it took to keep their haven in tact.
Let’s hope I am wrong and Arthur Avenue not only stays around but expands back to it’s original state over the next 10 years. Either way, take your shopping list here next time and stop off at Mario’s for the best pizza you’ll ever have in your life (only available at lunch time) and end your day with a cappuccino at De Lilos Pastry Shop. You won’t be disappointed.