Sunday, April 23, 2006

Food Goes Here: Arthur Ave.

If you haven't made the trek to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, you should. It's like Little Italy, except Italians still live there, and it isn't swarming with tourists. And things are really reasonably priced. Okay, so it isn't like Little Italy. Anyway, there's fantastic food to be had there - both in the restaurants (Dominick's, Mario's, and the fancier Roberto's all have their partisans) and the shops (including the Arthur Ave. indoor market). The Arthur Ave. area (what you're interested in, anyway), is only a few blocks long, extending out from the intersection of Arthur Ave. and 187th St. Walking around Arthur Ave., grazing as I go, is one of my favorite ways to spend a day. It feels civilized, like it's the way eating and shopping should be. I went to both high school and college nearby, and one of my favorite memories from high school is my Freshman year religion teacher returning from taking his lunch break on Arthur Ave. with loaves of Italian bread, tearing off pieces of the bread, and handing it out to the class. Anyway, I did some shopping Arthur Ave. yesterday, and took some pictures. Like a tourist. A tourist, I tells ya!

Vincent's Meat Market is my favorite butcher. If you look at the large view, you'll see carcasses in the window. Yeah, it's a bit theatrical. Take note of the cars in the street. Traffic and parking are - on Saturdays, anyway - pretty miserable.

This is Teitel Brothers, which is next to Vincent's Meat Market. I got some prosciutto and a massive piece of parmigiano reggiano here. And this weird-but-delicious, marscapone tort that they forced me to taste. Forced might be a little strong. This is my favorite place to get cold cuts. If you look at the large view of the above photo, you'll see two old ladies that look exactly the way you want them to. Exactly.

An inside shot of Teitel Brothers (doesn't it sound like a plumbing supply company?). It's filled with deliciousness. There was a father walking out of the store with his son (maybe four years old) when I was walking in:

Father: Okay, now we'll go to bread store. Okay? I promise it won't smell in there.
Son [suspiciously]: Okay...

It smells like a million different cheeses and cured meats in Teitel Brothers. Like heaven, really. Unless you are four. Or a vegetarian.

This is Mike's Deli inside the market. They have good stuff - fantastic sandwiches if you want to sit and munch, good cheeses (including fresh mozzarella) and cold cuts, great olives (pictured below). Unfortunately, it can get extremely, extremely crowded. There's also a photo of Benito Mussolini hanging up behind the counter. Apparently, he made the trains run on time.

Olives! In drums! Many of them! These are part of Mike's but you don't wait on line for them. There's someone standing there to scoop them up for you. Don't scoop them yourself. I mean it. Cafe al Mercato in the rear-left of the market has good subs and "grandma" slices of pizza. I've never really been blown away by the fruit and vegetables I've gotten in the market...but they've never been bad, either.


Amazingly, there's a merchant in the Arthur Ave. market that specializes in things I am too scared of to eat. Tripe! Kidneys! Rabbits! Did you know that in another five seasons there will be a Simpsons reference for everything you may encounter in life? Seriously.

Lisa: [gasps] Mom, are those rabbits dead?
Marge: No, no, Lisa they're just sleeping, upside down... and inside out...

This is inside Madonia Brothers bakery, my favorite bakery on Arthur Ave. This isn't the sort of bread you get at a good Manhattan bakery, but light, airy Italian bread that's perfect for mopping up a meal. They also have prosciutto bread, which is chewy and peppery, and has cubes of, yep, prosciutto in it.

There are two fish places on Arthur Ave. - Randazzo's and Cosenza's - both seem good to me (not great, but good). You can stop and slurp a dozen clams or oysters at either if you are so inclined. Sometimes in the summer, they have eels swimming in tanks. Watching eels swim in tanks is oddly hypnotic.

This is 187th St. where it intersects Arthur Ave. Borgatti's pasta is located a couple blocks down on it. If you stop in be prepared for some pretty extreme Catholic bumper stickers (Actually, if you make the trip, be prepared to see more crucifixes in public places than you are used to.). The large, cheese-filled ravioli at Borgatti's are ridiulously delicious and filled with creamy riccotta (I have a dozen taunting me from my refrigerator right now). You can see Enzo's pastry shop as well as DeLillo's (an aside, author Don DeLillo grew up in the area). I go with Enzo's. Finally, you can make out Casa Della Mozzarella (green awning), which is my favorite place for fresh mozzarella - if you're lucky, it may still be warm when they hand it to you. If you're very lucky, it won't be crowded and you can watch them make it in the back.

Anyway, here's the meal - or one of the meals, anyway - Tara and I have had based on my trip:

You can get to Arthur Ave. in a few ways. The D train to Fordham Road, then the 12 bus east to Arthur. You can take the 2 or 5 to Pelham Parkway, and then the 12 bus west to Arthur. Or you can take the Metro North to Fordham Road, and walk a few blocks east to Arthur. Here's a google/subway map to show you what you're getting into. Give yourself (at least) 45 minutes from midtown. Finally, if you make the trip, don't do it on a Sunday. I repeat: Don't do it on a Sunday. Italian neighborhood, Catholic rules: very few shops are open on Sundays.


DogGirl said...

Yikes, those look like fetuses. Olives + vodka = good gluttony.

Joey V said...

I LOVED Madonia Brothers growing up - am excited to know manhattan has better bakeries. which ones?

pay per head said...

Wonderful post. If only I'd of come across something as wise and straightforward when I was starting out! See you at the reading!