Sometimes you have to step outside of your comfort zone and be spontaneous to discover some of the greatest things life has to offer – or at least some of the greatest things New York has to offer.
With this weekend (Valentine’s Weekend) being one of the coldest in record history, I could only think of one way to keep warm – eating, of course! A staunch lover of all things Italian, naturally I wanted pizza and pasta to get me through these cold winter days (what’s new?). I had heard of a little known place just north of Manhattan, in New York’s most northern borough, the Bronx, and while tons of options exist in the City, I decided to be a bit adventurous and explore one of New York’s oldest and greatest well-kept secrets, Arthur Avenue.
Departing from Grand Central, just 18 minutes north of Manhattan on the Metro North, the area known as Belmont is not only home to Fordham University, but also what some like to call the “Original Little Italy”, unlike the similarly named Manhattan neighborhood, which has become a serious tourist trap. With immigrant heritage dating back to the midcentury, generations of families who have made New York home, have contributed to its charm and small town feel. Did you know even some of Hollywood’s biggest names came out of this beautiful Bronx area – just think Chaz Palminteri and Joe Pesci!
Boasting some of the most amazing fresh pasta, pizza, and delightful delicacies, this little nabe is nothing short of amazing. Store after store, this row of restaurants, including a retail market with fresh goods and produce, lines the street to give it a cute and quaint look that feels anything but “Big City”.
After a short intro the neighborhood (it was frigid outside so we’re reserving the exterior for the summer time), we ducked right into our first indulgence of the night – pizza at Mario’s. A true staple of the Italian-American culinary circuit on this block, Mario’s has been around since 1919! A decent sized establishment, this traditionally decked dining hall serves up some of the best pizza, pasta and Italian food known to the palate of mankind.
We ordered an authentic pie, with none of the toppings. Served just the way I like it, slightly crispy, with perfectly melted cheese and sweet sauce, we devoured the dough in record time. And while I could’ve ordered the entire menu, I didn’t want to spoil my appetite for the food tour we were embarking on.
Soon after departing Mario’s, we jolted across the street to a small wine bar called Parisienne’s. There, we sat for a quick cocktail and glass of wine, just to give our stomach’s time to settle and make room for more delectable dishes.
Stomach’s grumbling again, we made our way to Zero Otto Novo (Zero Eight Nine in Italian). A modern, rather upscale Italian restaurant on that very strip, we were seated immediately in the back room. I felt like we were in a cave in some villa in Italia! It was beautiful.
Having ventured on this journey with an Arthur Ave veteran, we had decided what to order before we had even arrived – the Lasagna! Unfortunately, it wasn’t on the menu, so we opted for the next best thing – huge Rigatoni with Meatball and sliced egg (heavenly!).
As we devoured our dish, I was in heaven. There’s nothing quite like eating real, homemade, authentic food. But unfortunately, I’m not a bottomless barrel and I was getting full. I had to save room for dessert, and I did – a homemade mini cheesecake with fresh sliced strawberries. What did I do to deserve so much love? Mama Mia!
This five foot nothing foodie was soon stuffed to the brim, there was no room for any other mangia marvel, unfortunately. But after learning about this gorgeous little gem of a neighborhood, and all the delectable delights it has to offer, there’s no doubt I’ll be back sooner rather than later!
Buon appetito, amici!