While changing urban interests and high rents may have taken the traditional flavor out of Manhattan’s Little Italy, Italian culture and its renowned cuisine are still alive and well in the Belmont region of North Bronx along Arthur Avenue.
This vibrant, market-filled microcosm of the ‘Old World’ is not just for tourists – butchers, bakeries, Italian eateries, seafood mongers, retail stores and noodle shops have persevered here, perfecting trades and providing services to the surrounding Italian community, some for as many as five generations.
The scents of sweet Italian sausage and baking pizza lure in-the-know visitors seeking hard-to-find Italian ingredients or just a day of cultural immersion. In addition to the many food vendors – including the cut-by-hand creations of Borgatti’s Ravioli and Egg Noodles, Randazzo’s Seafood selling fresh oysters and anchovies, as well as the dozens inside the cavernous Arthur Avenue Retail Market modeled after open air markets in Europe – you’ll find enough sit-down trattorias, cafés, pizzerias and fine dining establishments serving rich, savory and traditional Italian cuisine to try a new one for lunch and dinner each day for a month.
Of course, there’s more to Italian culture than food. Other neighborhood haunts include Ciccarone Park with regular bocce tournaments, the 100-year-old Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, that still offers Sunday mass in Italian and the Belmont Library and Enrico Fermi Cultural Center featuring exhibits on the Italian American experience and a huge collection of printed materials, videos and audiobooks in the community’s mother tongue.
Culinary and driving tours are popular ways to experience the best of the neighborhood. If transportation isn’t included, access Bronx’s Little Italy via the Metro-North Harlem River Line, which stops at Fordham Road with an exit on Arthur Avenue, or by MTA bus, which in the summer connect the area with other regional tourist stops – the Bronx Zoo and the New York Botanical Garden. If you choose to drive, parking – like in most of greater New York City – can be challenging. Two lots (2347 Arthur Avenue and 2340 Hoffman Street) offer paid spots. A new smartphone app called ‘Parker’ gives real-time updates of street parking in the Belmont Business Improvement District.