If you've never been to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, you're missing out on one of New York's greatest culinary treasures. This tight knit and thriving Italian-American neighborhood is full of old-school butchers, cheese and pasta makers, and friendly storekeepers, willing to share their favorite recipes.
Many New Yorkers from the other four boroughs are reticent to make the long trip uptown. They, and the rest of the country, can order some goods online. But there's nothing like the ambiance, the rich smells, and the personalities of the real deal. With Easter this weekend, right now is either the most thrilling or most frustrating time of year to visit, other than Christmas. The shops will be thronged with customers buying their Easter Pies, crown roasts, spring lambs, and of course, all the sausages, cheeses, antipasti, and vegetables for Sunday's dinner.
Whether you visit this weekend, or at another time of year, there are a few places you'll have to go:
• Arthur Avenue Retail Market The heart of the neighborhood is this covered market, where you can buy hand-rolled cigars, huge, classic Italian hero sandwiches, dozens of kinds of olives, and fresh meats, including offal. The produce stands are hit-or-miss, but are worth a look. 2344 Arthur Avenue, at East 187th street. 718-367–5686, www.arthuravenue.com.
• Calabria Meats If you like pork, you have to go to this pig-lover's nirvana. Choose one of the salamis hanging from the ceiling, or get an elderly butcher to cut fresh meat to order. 2338 Arthur Avenue, between 186th street and Crescent Avenue, 718-365–5145
• Teitel Brothers We go to this crowded store for good and inexpensive olive oils, hard cheeses, dried fruits and nuts, and hard-to-find Italian ingredients. 2372 Arthur Avenue, at East 186th street, 718-733–9400
• Calandra Cheese Many places in the neighborhood make their own fresh mozzarella. But this store sells fresh, aged and smoked mozzarella, homemade ricotta, farm eggs, and dozens of imported Italian cheeses. 2314 Arthur Avenue, between 186th street and Crescent Avenue, 718-365–7572
• Borgatti's Ravioli & Egg Noodles Perhaps our favorite stop in the neighborhood is this old-fashioned store selling fresh pastas in dozens of shapes and flavors. You can watch the pasta being made on a hand-cranked machine as a little old lady shuffles around assembling your order. 632 East 187th street, between Belmont and Hughes Avenues, 718-367–3799
Of course it's also fun to just stroll along the streets, browsing and stopping at one of the bakeries for cannoli and an espresso. Most foodie destinations are on Arthur Avenue between East 184th and East 188th streets, and also on 187th street between Lorillard Place and Hughes Avenue. Be aware that many stores are closed on Sundays. Borgatti's is also closed on Mondays.
These photos are just a few of the dozens of photographs that Jason Perlow has taken of the Arthur Avenue Retail Market. Visit his blog, Off the Broiler to see more.