You don't need to be Italian in order to appreciate the section of the Bronx known as Arthur Avenue. This Italian food-lovers oasis is the perfect Escape destination - just daytrip distance from Huntington. It's an active and exciting neighborhood, truly a feast for all of the senses, offering some of the best shops for bread, pasta, meats, cheeses, pastries, seafood - and, above all, history.
A good many of the Arthur Avenue shops have been in existence since the early 1900's. For example, the Teitel Brothers Wholesale Grocery opened in 1915 when brothers Jacob and Morris decided to take on a new venture together. Flash forward to the present day and it's still family owned - currently operated by the third generation of Teitels. If you visit their store on the corner of Arthur Avenue and 187th Street, we'd suggest taking home some of their noteworthy grated parmigiana-reggiano, olives, and proscuitto di parma.
On Arthur Avenue, there's always a new experience and another endearing story around each and every corner. This image (above) is of Richard Liberatore, taken at his spot (Liberatore's Garden) inside the Arthur Avenue Retail Market where he sells seasonal items, plants, imported Italian seeds. In the photo, Richard is holding a framed Wall Street Journal article about his father, Joe, written in July of 2011 after the 92-year old's passing.
According to the article, Joe was among the earliest pushcart vendors on Arthur Avenue, buying his cart for $25 in 1936. According to family members, he would ride the Third Avenue elevated railroad to Washington Market in downtown Manhattan in wee hours of the morning and haul his produce to the Bronx. On cold days back then, vendors burned newspapers to stay warm. In 1940, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia opened the Arthur Avenue Retail Market in order to get the vendors off the street. More than 100 peddlers crammed into the market.
Richard Liberatore carries on his father's legacy in the Arthur Avenue Retail Market. If you stop in, you'll find him at the first booth on the left. He's quick with a smile and happy to share the story of his late father's endearing relationship with Arthur Avenue, which earned Joe the nickname, Mayor of Arthur Avenue.
Arthur Avenue Retail Market also hosts many other vendors of produce, meats, plants, herbs, cigars, and more. Pasquale's Rigoletto has been a mainstay Italian restaurant for over 30 years. Vincent's Meat Market has enjoyed doing business on Arthur Avenue since 1954. And Borgatti's Ravioli and Egg Noodles opened their shop 80 years ago and is still family run. We tried the fresh spinach and parmesan ravioli and were stunned by the goodness.
A day spent on Arthur Avenue will open your eyes to a little-changed part of New York. It will give you wonderful, fresh food to take home, conversations to remember, and a slice of history you'll want to return to again and again.
For more information about Arthur Avenue, please visit bronxlittleitaly.com.
Writing and Photos by Pam Grunow.