Wandering Arthur Avenue in February might not be your first choice to explore this food mecca, but when Danielle of Feast on History Tours wanted to promote her food tours, I took advantage of the offer!
Going to Arthur Avenue has been on my list for decades and for whatever reason every promised trip has always failed to materialize.
But not this time!
For those of you not familiar with Arthur Avenue, it’s a trip back in time, with family-run Italian shops lining streets near the Bronx Zoo.
Our guide Danielle grew up in the neighborhood and started giving tours a few years ago.
She’s well organized and shares her enthusiasm along with tastes from all her favorite shops. That means you’re not stuffing your face with junk in tourist stops–just getting a taste of insider high points.
The hub is the covered central market, the Arthur Avenue Retail Market.
We met there and enjoyed cappuccinos and biscotti while discussing the plan for the day and getting a little history of the area from Danielle. One of the things I liked about the tour was her gift of giving you just enough history to make it all interesting (and not so much that you’re looking for the exits).
After that, we went to the first of three (totally different) bakeries. This one was a traditional bread bakery, with beautiful loaves lining the windows and shelves. Addeo’s Bakery is known for their “addictive” chicola bread made with chunks of crispy cured pork. If you’ve ever had prosciutto bread, this simply takes it to a whole other level.
You’ll soon learn that anyone who is familiar with Arthur Ave. has their favorite shops and will defend them to the death. If you think you’re going to do one stop shopping fuggedaboutit—there are shops who specialize on each and every item on your shopping list. What all these shops have in common is that they’ve been in business for years, building up a loyal clientele, many of whom are also third generation shoppers.
One of the few shops that everyone seems to agree on is Borgatti Ravioli for their fresh pasta. When you walk in the store, you’re handed a card with the widths of pasta on it. Choose one of 9 different flavors of pasta and they’ll cut it to order–as wide or narrow as you’d like. If you’d rather have ravioli or manicotti, they’ve got that too and all the tomatoes or pre-made sauces you need for your pasta.
In between the second and third bakeries, we stopped at Joe’s Deli for tastes of their cheeses. In a world where everyone has the best mozzarella, I’d be voting for Joe’s. Smooth and really creamy, it was one of the best I’ve ever had. I was just sad that it was February with not a decent tomato in sight…
The third bakery was Artuso’s where we had one of the few cannoli I ever really enjoyed. Small and freshly filled, there was the perfect amount of not too sweet filling to crunchy shell. Three perfect bites!
There were stops to several other great spots on and off Arthur Avenue, ending up with a great Sicilian pizza back at the market.
Danielle does such a good job taking you to her favorite spots, that you’ll be armed with all the info you need to explore on your own. It’s certainly a tour I’d recommend to friends (and have) and would even take again, just for fun.
What I also learned, is that a cold Saturday in February, early in the morning is doable. After that even in 20° weather, and it’s a free for all.
My advice? Contact Danielle and set up a weekday morning so you can end up at any one of many great spots with a sandwich or pizza for lunch.