There is something very enchanting about snow, especially when it’s snowing on Arthur Avenue during Christmastime. We had the luxury of being a part of the exclusive Arthur Avenue food tour with Danielle Oteri and Anthony Fasano of The Italian American Podcast. Besides tantalizing our taste buds, we were given some first hand looks at what goes on behind the scenes at some of Arthur Avenue’s most legendary establishments and the neighborhood’s rich history.
While we sunk our teeth into some delectable delicacies, Danielle illuminated so many wonderful historical facts about the Bronx’s oldest Italian neighborhood. Being situated in a section of the Bronx called Belmont, Arthur Avenue is the main artery of a once thriving Italian enclave. First populated by Italians in the late 1800’s who were primarily employed as masons to build the many sprawling estates and government buildings in the area, Belmont got its name, which literally means beautiful hill, because of the Lorillard estate which once sat atop the hill at the corner of Crescent Avenue and Arthur Avenue. The walls of the estate which were built by Italian immigrants still stand and their most recognizable remnants still remain at the base of this hill and intersection.
Our tour included stops in such famous establishments as G. Addeo & Sons Bakery, Cosenza’s Fish Market, Calabria Pork Store, Teitel Brothers, Cerini Coffee & Gifts, Calandra Cheese, Biancardi’s Meat Market, Clabria Pork Store and Egidio Pasticceria. These are just some of the many that comprise one of the largest concentrations of Italian businesses in America.
Calandra Cheese is a must for any cheese lover, especially for those with discerning taste. We were given samples of their various cheeses and each one held its own in freshness and purity of taste. The counter has at least ten different cheeses that customers can sample and if you are on Danielle’s food tour you can have even more to choose from. I recommend their truffle cheese. Slightly shredded over some pasta or just sliced and paired with wine, this cheese will take your taste buds on quite an adventure.
Cerini coffee and gifts has one of the largest selections of coffee machines in the country. They also have a breathtaking collection of dishware and collectibles. The store has so much inside of it and everything is neatly laid out for convenient browsing. While there, you’re encouraged to try their espresso from one of the many machines they sell and service. The espresso is delicious.
Addeo Bakers churns out one of the best lard breads in the country, not to mention amazing olive bread and Saint Joseph bread as well. I blinked and the lard bread sampled to the tour disappeared. It was incredible.
Cosenza’s Fish Market has an interesting history. It was one of the very first Italian establishments on Arthur Avenue. John Cosenza generously gave us his time and knowledge in explaining the feast of the seven fish and the significance to fish among the Italian communities of America. They are rounding their 100th year in business this January. While there, it isn’t uncommon to hear Italian being spoken between the employees and customers. This fish market has an old world feel and really epitomizes the American immigrant success story.
Biancardi’s Meat Market ironically was originally an animal pound in the 1800’s. It was used as a place to collect feral and escaped livestock. The area surrounding this bustling enclave in the 1800’s was known for its farmlands and estates. At the time, it was common to see wondering goats and foul. Now, Biancardi’s serves up some of the best cuts of meat around and their specialties include but are not limited to tripe, sausage, and other Italian specialties.
You’ve probably seen pictures online of Calabria Pork Store. They’re known for their dry sausage which abundantly hangs from the ceilings creating the world’s largest meat chandelier. Patrons can try samples of their hot and sweet sausage while waiting for their orders. A must see while on Arthur Avenue.
At Egidio Bakery we were given a real behind the scenes look at how their famous pignoli cookies are made by the bakery’s gregarious owner, Carmella. She generously showed us the bakery’s sacred recipes which are still on the same paper that they were written on 100+ years ago. Her homemade marzipan made for the best rainbow cookies I have ever tried in my life.
Tietel Brothers happens to be one of the most well-known businesses on Arthur Avenue. The funny thing is, they’re not Italian, but that certainly hasn’t stopped them from becoming one of the largest distributors of imported Italian products in the country. Famed for their heroic system of offering credit to patrons during the great depression, the Tietel brothers became a lynchpin of the Belmont community by preventing many of the neighborhood’s residents from starvation during a dark chapter in American history. The picture on the left is of Anthony and Danielle. Anthony is holding up Bottarga, which is a dried fish that is prepared around this time of year by being rehydrated just like baccala.
I have a feeling that Danielle could have made this tour an entire day and she still wouldn’t have scraped the surface for her knowledge of Belmont. When someone is so passionate about what they do, they’re said to never work a day in their life. This is certainly true of Danielle and her Arthur Avenue food tour. She makes you feel like a welcomed family member visiting a long lost relative in a familiar place. The warmth that we experienced here despite the snow and cold is something everyone should experience at least once. Please feel free to reach out to Danielle at : Booking@feastonhistory.com or by calling 718-618-6264.