Little Italy in the Bronx is right outside the walls of mine and Erin's alma mater Fordham University and minutes from where I spent a chunk of my childhood at my grandparents' home. An under-the-radar area for most non-natives, the neighborhood has a dated feel and quiet sense of forgotten-ness.
While it doesn't have as much notoriety as its Mulberry Street counterpart, Arthur Avenue (this particular Little Italy focal point) is home to some of the best Italian restaurants and grocers in the city. As the locals linger and exchange pleasantries with shop owners, city kids and octogenarian chess players converge on nearby playgrounds; stop by for a low-key Saturday or Sunday to get a snapshot of this slower-paced sort of NYC.
A great debate ensues among Fordham students on which pizzeria is the best in the neighborhood. I subscribe to the University Pizza camp, however many argue that Pugsley's reigns supreme (with few who cite Full Moon as their go-to). Sure, Pugsley's wins on ambience (there's a working gong, handwritten love notes on its walls, and a memorable staff), but try the Buffalo Chicken slice at University and I dare you to say it's not the best you've eaten in a long time.
Little Italy has an abundance of sit-down restaurants and chances are that wherever you stumble into will deliver a delicious spread of Italian-American dishes. Yet, there are a few favorites with a bit more bada bing! than others. Check them out:
Stop by Poe Cottage on your way down Fordham Road if you take the subway. The house where the prolific poet spent the last few years of his life is restored amid midcentury apartment complexes.
Admittedly, I was indifferent about athletics (though not about athletes) as an undergrad. But, The Fordham Rams have done surprisingly well these last few years. They're one of the few D-1 football programs in the city, so catching a game may be worth your while – if not for the sport, then for some good old-fashioned collegiate camaraderie and tailgating.
And, a trip to Arthur Ave would be remiss without some vittles to go. Here's where to shop before heading home:
- Borgatti's: fresh pasta to rival Eataly's (and at a much better cost).
- Addeo & Sons Bakery: traditional Italian breads.
- Arthur Avenue Retail Market: stop by the beer hall in the middle of the market, stroll around, and pick up some smoked MUZ-ah-relle (that's New York for "mozzarella"). Check out Calabria Pork Store for some protein.
Take the 4 train to Fordham Road for a bit of a walk to Arthur Avenue or the D train to Fordham Road for a slightly shorter walk. But, my recommendation is to take the Metro North from Grand Central; and if you're going on the weekend take advantage of the discounted CityTicket rate!
Have a reliable recommendation or sweet spot to share? Go crazy in the comments section.