Thursday, December 16, 2010

A fragrant slice of Italy in the Bronx

"Arthur Ave Cheese. Bronx, New York. 2005...Image via Wikipedia

The Bronx is the only one of the five boroughs preceded by the word "the" and Arthur Avenue probably is one of the few parts of the city where you hear Italian spoken in stores and restaurants.

I spent a couple of hours there on Thursday having a light lunch and then ducking into food stores, a public market and a bakery.

My first stop was Emilia's Restaurant, where most of the tables were full and many in the lunchtime crowd were sharing bottles of red wine to wash down their $11.95 specials, such as two grilled pork chops piazzaiola, in a tomato-pepper-mushroom sauce, with a side of zucchini and carrots.

I wanted something lighter and chose the baccala salad, which I haven't seen on this side of the Hudson. 

The pieces of codfish, tomato, capers and parsely were dressed with olive oil and lemon ($9.95). The portion, served in an appetizer plate, seemed small for the price when compared with the specials, which came on dinner plates.

The bread, from the Madonia Bros. Bakery across the street (2348 Arthur Ave.), had a crust that shattered when you bit into it and a soft, doughy interior -- perfect for soaking up the dressing on the tomato sections and bits of cheese that came with the bread basket.

Before heading home, I dropped into a cheese store, pork store, fish market, public market and the Madonia Bakery.

Calandra Cheese's interior was hung with smoked mozzarella, and the fragrance was strong, even though the door was open. "They're cooking in the back," the man at the counter said. (2314 Arthur Ave.)

At the Calabria Pork Store, I couldn't see the ceiling for all the salami, sausage and other meats hanging above my head. The pungent smell could be a turn-off if you stay inside too long. (2338 Arthur Ave.)

I didn't catch the name of the fish market, but noticed a lot of dried codfish on sale, as well as fresh fish, such as small whiting for a low $2.99 a pound.

In the public market, I saw more than a dozen men tucking into plates of Italian food. They said they get together every Thursday for lunch. One of the men insisted he flew up from Florida that morning.

Emilia's Restaurant, 2331 Arthur Ave., The Bronx, N.Y.; 1-718-367-5915. 
Open seven days. Web site:

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  1. Victor have you ever been to the Little Italy in Morris Park in the Bronx? I was there on last Thursday. There are some good Italian restaurants there as well as great bakeries.

  2. No. I haven't been there. I just read one comment calling Morris Park the greatest neighborhood in New York.

    Arthur Avenue is more accessible than Little Italy in Manhattan, but Brooklyn has some great Italian neighborhoods, too, including Gravesend and Bensonhurst, two places where I grew up.

    I hope to return soon to Spumoni Gardens for its Sicilian pizza, near Lafayette High School in Brooklyn.


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