Residents of the Italian American neighborhoods along Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, New York, are the guardians of what many call New York’s real Little Italy. Home to Doo-Wop music and authentic Italian restaurants and shops, many of the area’s businesses have been family owned and operated for generations. The neighborhood is especially charming and festively decorated for the Christmas season.
There is nothing like a trip to this unique ‘Old World’ Italian neighborhood during the holidays; it is like stepping back in time. A return to the place where so many from the area have their roots is both comforting and invigorating. A neighborhood steeped in the traditions going back generations; a place where our ancestors first made their homes upon their arrival in America. Even if your family didn’t live in the Arthur Avenue section of the Bronx, it retains all of the features and charm that made these places special. The Christmas season is a magical time for all to reflect on their history while maintaining the traditions that have shaped our lives and will continue to do so into the future. Arthur Avenue, located in the Belmont section of the Bronx, is such a place. Through the years, it has remained proudly Italian and fiercely loyal to its heritage.
Wonderfully decorated for the Christmas Season, the neighborhood is a delight during this special time of the year. The sights, smells and sounds harken back to a simpler time, before social media became dominate; a time when vendors greeted patrons by name and often remembered their favorite goods and preferences. Is it a neighborhood that time forgot? Absolutely not! It takes enormous effort to make the intangibles of the past alive and resonant today. It is about the time honored traditions of quality and service! In addition to shopping, an experience like nowhere else, visitors should stop into the historic Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church located at 627 East 187th Street. The parish was established for Italian immigrants in 1906, when a store was remodeled as a chapel. By the end of 1907, the congregation had swelled from 150 worshipers to 1,134 adults and 150 children. A new church was quickly planned and beautifully constructed in the Romanesque Revival-style. It was completed in 1912 and within two years, its congregation had grown to more than 3,000, with its Sunday school having an attendance of 800 children.
As we plan our holidays, the calendar reveals that Christmas Eve is almost upon us. A visit to Cosenza’s Fish Market, 2354 Arthur Avenue, is an absolute must! The market specializes in all kinds of seafood and is renowned for their clams and oysters. It is the perfect place to shop for all of the seafood that you’ll need for a seven fishes dinner, whether its cod, calamari, scungilli or shrimp, you’ll find the freshest selections at Cosenza’s. You can also call John at 718-364-8510 to place your order.
For a tremendous array of Italian groceries, visit Teitel Brothers, 2372 Arthur Avenue (718 -733-9400). In these days of giant food markets and box stores offering their selections of international foods, Teitel Brothers offers great prices on a full range of the finest imported Italian products. It does so in the same small, 900 square foot grocery store that has been a staple in the community for more than a century. Products from pasta to canned goods surround you. The smell of fine aged cheese lifts your spirit as you are greeted by one of the owners. The store is justly famous for their excellent prices for exceptional products. You will find the very best imported cooking ingredients, a dizzying array of olives, the most incredible Italian sausages that you are likely to have tasted (judged to be the best in New York by the Daily News). Now in the third and fourth generations at the same location, Gilbert, Benjamin, Louis and their sons continue to bring appassionato to their wholesale and retail establishment.
When it comes to pasta – you will want to order a few pounds of egg noodles, ravioli and fresh dough for lasagna and manicotti at Borgatti’s, 632 East 187th Street (718-367-3799). Families have been returning to Borgatti’s for generations. They offer an outstanding variety of homemade specialties that have had customers returning to the store for decades. For many, it would not be Christmas without Borgatti’s fresh ravioli and a pilgrimage to their shop is one of the great joys of the season! The look on everyone’s faces when the pasta is served is a gift like no other. The quality and authentic taste is unmistakable and the joy that it brings to the dinner table is unmistakable.
For over 80 years, the Addeo family has owned and operated their bakery in the Bronx’s vibrant Little Italy. The family heritage of being a premier maker of traditional Italian bread and biscuits began three generations ago with founders Gennaro and Vincenza with the opening of their bread shop. Today their grandsons, Thomas and Laurence, have taken the mantle of leadership of this baking dynasty from their fathers, Salvatore and Laurence. They are proud to say, “Our family proudly serves your family.” When in the area you must stop by for the freshest pane di casa, pizza dough, breadsticks, biscuits and whole wheat semolina bread. Addeo Bakery is located at 2372 Hughes Avenue in the Bronx. Call them to order at 718- 367-8316.
Since 1954, Vincent’s has been providing families with the highest quality meats, recipes, tips and top quality service. At Vincent’s, you will find service second to none. They believe that buying meat should not be a guessing game, so only skilled butchers cut each order to your exact specifications. They will also provide cooking advice to ensure that you leave the store with knowledge, not unanswered questions. It is all about the quality at Vincent’s – the finest cuts of meat at prices that are lower than you would find at the supermarket. Vincent’s is located in the heart of the Bronx’s Little Italy at 2374 Arthur Avenue. Call them at 718-295-9048 to ask about specials and any cuts of meat that you will need for the holidays.
In between shopping and strolling in Belmont, take a break at a café for an espresso and Italian pastry. You’ll find shops with varieties of all of your favorite pastries and specialty sweets. Once you’ve been to Arthur Avenue for holiday shopping, you will likely become a customer for life!