When you can’t go to Italy, you go to Little Italy (in the Bronx)
There is nothing like New York City. It is truly one of the most dynamic and cultural places on Earth. That being said, it still isn’t Italy. However, you can find more authentic restaurants and shops here that somehow transport you to a new destination.
Growing up for most of my childhood in Florida and Maine, I was never really introduced to many types of ethnic cuisines besides “China Rose” (Brunswick, ME) or Olive Garden (my birthday restaurant of choice). It’s almost embarrassing to say that now when I’m cooking with Roberto, but it’s part of my past and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Needless to say, I don’t think there will ever be an Olive Garden trip planned for me in the near future (unless I’m desperate).
When you live in NYC you get a taste of many different flavors. Anything from the $1 slice of NY Pizza or the Ess-a-bagel (a staple for me) to Joe’s Shanghai or Gyu Kaku (Japanese BBQ) you will live happy. Now there is a famous section of Manhattan just north of the dumpling smothered streets of Chinatown known as Little Italy. Yes, I’m sure you have been here, but in case you haven’t, you don’t want to go here if you want truly authentic. I do think that this section of town has it’s own charm and wonderful atmosphere – and yes a good cannoli if you fancy it, but the real gem of authenticity lies in the Bronx. Right off of Arthur Avenue is “Little Italy Bronx”.
A good family (Italian) friend mentioned that she traveled to the Bronx to buy all of her specialty food items and meats. We knew that she was a lover of cooking and good food, so we listened and took the trip ourselves. For Roberto, there were so many things available for purchase that reminded him of home, and for me, well – it was like Christmas morning ($200 later…). All of my Italian cibo discoveries were now available for me to purchase right here in America. I have to say though, that due to importing the goods, the prices are no where near the cheap prices of the food in Italy, but completely worth it. Actually, if you really do your shopping right, most of the products are cheaper than your usual Manhattan grocery store and you can’t beat the quality. There is definitely a generalization or let’s just go with – it is a FACT that Italian products are of much higher quality than that in the U.S. Personally, I can taste the difference and my taste buds are changing more and more.
A day on Arthur Avenue is something that I always enjoy. Roberto and I stock up on everything (espresso for sure) and either grab a slice of pizza or just some pane and sliced prosciutto for lunchtime panino. From our apartment in Manhattan we take the train north a few stops and then the bus to Fordham University. From there it’s about a 10 min walk to this hidden heaven of New York. Teitel Brothers happens to be one of my favorite stops on the street, because they are friendly and have so many wonderful things (Pavesini, Galeffi, Pan di Stelle – just to name a few). When you arrive just look for someone behind the counter to offer you a piece of cheese and some of the famous balsamic that really pairs well with so many things. I usually grab a pound of prosciutto, mozzarella and creamy gorgonzola. If you are really going for the all in experience (and have a hefty appetite for formaggio) you can purchase an industrial size package of Stracchino (OH MY GOSH).
Next on the list of places to stop is the indoor market which has an array of food stands, fruit stands, a homemade cigar factory (if you’re into that) and some great caffé at an ACTUAL bar. Remember a bar in Italia is not a place that you go to take a beer, but it is a place where you stand and grab your espresso or cappuccino (only before noon).
Since we have arrived at the American holiday of Thanksgiving, it is only natural that the Christmas treats famous in Italy have arrived at the market. Bauli Pandoro and some fresh Torrone are two items that you should definitely have in your house this holiday season if you want that real authentic Italian Natale.
There are still so many shops that I haven’t had the chance to visit yet and every time I do make the (almost $200 shopping spree) trip to the Bronx I discover something new. I love trying new things and immersing myself into the Italian culture which I love so much. You will not regret this trip off of the beaten path.
Con un Pandoro e un gran conto,