You don’t have to go all the way to Italy for a Roman holiday. Among New York City’s multitude of cultural pockets, you’ll find a locale so authentically Italian-American you’ll forget you’re not actually walking the cobblestone streets of Sicily. We’re not talking about Mulberry Street, either. Journey to the Bronx, and you’ll find the mile-long stretch of Italian eats, drinks, and shops known as Arthur Avenue – or, to many, the “real Little Italy of New York.” Join the ranks of notables like Robert DeNiro, Frank Sinatra, and Cher, along with scores of New Yorkers and out-of-towners alike, who consider this friendly, lowkey neighborhood a home away from home.
Arthur Avenue has been an epicenter of Italian-American culture and fare since the early decades of the 20th century, and to this day, has retained a small-town feel despite being part of one of the largest metropolises in the world. Within the bounds of its 12-block radius, you’ll find that the businesses are owned and operated by third-, fourth-, and even fifth-generation Italian immigrants. Combine the sprawling family affair with the area’s rich history, and it’s no wonder that nearly every butcher shop, bakery, and restaurant you encounter will be a neighborhood institution in some form.
If you’re driving in from outside the city, there are many easy-access routes to Arthur Avenue and plenty of parking. If you’re coming in from Manhattan by Subway, take the Uptown B or D train to the Fordham Road station, which will leave you ten blocks from Arthur Avenue. For a shorter walk, you can also take the Metro North Commuter train from Grand Central, ending up five blocks from the Bronx’s Little Italy. Keep in mind that these trains are a bit more expensive than the Subway and don’t run as often. If you plan to make a day (or several) of it, other nearby attractions include Yankee Stadium, the Bronx Zoo, the New York Botanical Garden, and the Cloisters at the Met.
Where to Eat
Don’t expect to see a menu here. Throughout its 50-some years of existence, Dominick’s has primarily relied on their specials, seemingly with great success. Diners rave about their chicken caciatore and scarpariello, so be sure to keep an eye out for those on the daily menu. Kill time at the small bar upstairs when the wait is long, and don’t forget to bring cash.
This family-owned, fifth-generation Bronx institution recently celebrated its centennial, and has stayed true to its history for every one of its years – the stone-washed walls inside are covered with family photos and memorabilia. Like many of the restaurants on Arthur Avenue, walking in is like walking backward in time and ending up in a coastal trattoria. Their vast menu offers a breadth of options far wider than that of Dominick’s, so opt for Mario’s if you’re looking for variety over versatility.
zero otto nove
This Michelin-recognized trattoria specializes in homey Italian fare, from pizzas fired in the central brick oven to generous portions of pastas and meats. Throw in some top-tier Italian wines and warm hospitality, and it’s easy to see why zero otta nove has accumulated such a dedicated following of foodie fans.
A favorite among Fordham students, this eclectic pizzeria offers a more casual (but always entertaining) alternative to zero otto nove. Known for its chicken rolls and the jovial antics of owner Sal Natale, Pugsley Pizza also offers heart-shaped pies perfect for romantic face-stuffing.
Egidio Pastry Shop
Founded in 1912, Egidio Pastry Shop is one of those Arthur Avenue spots that has maintained its status as a beloved neighborhood hangout for over a century. Expansive cases display flaky cannolis, mouth-watering eclairs, and decadent layer cakes, and the staff will be happy to offer suggestions when you inevitably find yourself unable to decide between sweet treats.
Where to Drink
The Bronx Beer Hall
Thirsty after a day of wandering the streets? Make a pit stop at The Bronx Beer Hall. Located among the sea of vendors in Arthur Avenue Retail Market, they have an excellent selection of beers, with local Bronx brews as the stars of the show, including the award-winning Gun Hill.
Mount Carmel Wines & Spirits
If you’ve ever wanted to impress your dinner guests with your knowledge of Italian wines, this is the place to start. Every region of Italy is represented here, and prices are a steal compared to Manhattan. Big spenders will want to take note of the finer vintages available, including Barolo and Amarone. Their selection of aperitifs and liqueurs is also worth a browse.
Where to Shop
Arthur Avenue Retail Market
If you only visit one shop while exploring Arthur Avenue, let it be the Arthur Avenue Retail Market. To call it a shop is an extreme understatement: this concrete structure, built by legendary mayor Fiorello LaGuardia to stop pushcarts from congesting the streets, is home to an Italian-American Eden. Sandwich and pasta makers, meat vendors, and even a cigar-rolling shops are among the dozens of vendors who make up the maze of stalls inside.
Borgatti’s Ravioli and Egg Noodles
Any establishment that has customers making annual pilgrimages from all over the country, coolers in hand, is worth checking out. Borgatti’s has become a destination of its own, where you can stock up on their array of fresh pasta from classic fettucini to ravioli stuffed with imaginative flavors including porcini, pumpkin, and lobster.
Vincent’s Meat Market
If you can make it past the macabre window displays, you’ll find a selection of the highest-quality meats in the city. More niche Italian specialties are available as well, including perfectly seasoned hand-rolled meatballs, white tripe, and rolled beef bracciole. When in Rome, right?
Stop into this chintzy, half-century-old grocery store for imported Italian cheeses, charcuterie, pasta, and sauces. You’ll also find dishes ready-made to take home or nibble on at one of the mismatched tables in front of a hearth topped with a fedora-wearing bust of Abe Lincoln.