Arthur Avenue is the heart of the Bronx's Little Italy, its epicenter being at Arthur Avenue and 187th Street in the Belmont-Fordham neighborhood of New York City--and even going a bit beyond to Prospect Avenue. Although not as Italian in terms of the local residents as in years past, it is a haven for all sorts of Italian restaurants and many types of purveyors of Italian specialty foods. The lively, tight streets are lined with delis, bakeries, fish markets, green grocers, cookwares, butchers, cheese shops and more. This is not a tourist trap, as is the "Little Italy" in downtown Manhattan. This is the real deal.
Arthur Avenue was named after President Chester A. Arthur in the 1800s. Many Italians settled in the neighborhood while being employed to build build the Bronx Zoo. Once the word got out about how nice the neighborhood was (more like the country than down on the Lower East Side) and with the added convenience of the recently built Third Avenue elevated train ("The El"), Italian immigrants from lower Manhattan migrated north, swelling the Italian population of the neighborhood to 100,000 in the early 1900s.
There are special events held in the neighborhood that are well worth attending. One is the “Dancing of the Giglio” and the Feast of St. Anthony. This ancient tradition originated in Nola, Italy in 409 A.D. and is still celebrated today. The giglio is a custom, hand-made wooden structure, measuring 50 feet high and weighing several tons. It takes over 100 paranza (lifers) to hoist this enormous structure up on their shoulders as they carry it through the streets while performing various ritual maneuvers. The Feast of St. Anthony is held in early June every year and features live music, carnival games, rides, and fantastic Italian food.
And although Ferragosto (the end of summer holiday and celebration) in Italy is in August (Agosto), in the Bronx, they celebrate in early September. It's another chance to feast on Italian delicacies and enjoy the festive atmosphere of Arthur Avenue.
While on Arthur Avenue, don't forget to walk through the Arthur Avenue Market, an indoor market with a dozen or so vendors, purveyors and green grocers. Then after you're done buying your cheese, fish, meats and deli specialties, take in a dinner at one of the many Italian restaurants... the offerings here are authentic and far better than the cheap tourist menus in downtown Manhattan's Little Italy. Personally, I'd recommend Emilia's Restaurant. Try their brasciole!
Use the interactive map below to find your way around the neighborhood.
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