A January Jaunt on Arthur Avenue


My brother, Brandon, who lives in Los Angeles, decided to pay us a visit for a few days. One of his first requests was “I wanna go back to the Bronx and buy salamis and eat Italian food, because I can’t get that kind of stuff in California.” Yeah, twist my arm. Like THAT’s a tough request to accommodate. Any request to go to Arthur Avenue by ANYONE is immediately granted, because it’s one of my favorite places on earth.

The Arthur Avenue section of the Bronx late evening in January. Usually this shot would be impossible because of all the car and pedestrian traffic milling about on the street.

Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

We first decided to hit Teitel Brothers, a favorite grocery store of ours that has good prices and top-notch provisions. It’s been a fixture of Arthur Avenue for over 90 years, opened by a Jewish family that settled into the predominately Italian neighborhood. The Teitels were the original Jewish Bronx Paisanos.

Teitel Brothers has so much merchandise that the entire store is packed wall to wall with it and overflows onto the street corner. In fact, the store sells so much stuff that they bought another retail store across the street that only acts as storage.

On a Saturday afternoon the store wasn’t the usual insanity that you’d find during the week, so it was easier to photograph. Still, there were a lot of customers around.

San Marzano tomatoes, the key ingredient to a good Sunday Gravy.

The olive bar. I made sure to bring some of those multicolored ones home.

Sopressata.

Prunes? Nah, I don’t need to be that regular.

But these cheeses look good.

I tend to gravitate towards the sausage.

Get your mind out of the gutter.

Teitel’s countermen are always ready to help and are some of the friendliest, but have a good idea of what you want to buy beforehand otherwise you’ll hold up the line.

Of course, one cannot visit Arthur Avenue without making a trip to the Retail Market and Mike’s Deli as well.

Okay, now I’m seriously getting hungry.

This is some sort of antipasti with peperoncini.

Now we’re talkin’.

Arancini, stuffed Sicilian saffron rice balls. I was immediately “scolded” by David Grecco, the deli’s majordomo, for not taking a picture of it correctly.

“See? This is what it’s supposed to look like. Now eat that.” Yum.

Christmas and New Years is just a memory now, but Arthur Avenue is still looking festive at night.

Dominick’s is a favorite for a lot of out-of-towners for their large portions and family-style atmosphere. However, that was not our destination this evening.

Our first stop for the evening was at Arthur Avenue Cafe (shown in a previous post) which used to be primarily a lunch and dessert type of place but has recently hired a chef from Naples named Genaro who has staged in France, Belgium and in Kenya as head chef at the Italian Embassy in Nairobi. He’s only been here three months but has been cooking up a storm. We ordered one dish to share between the three of us, his current signature, which is a French-style timbale of eggplant in a tomato/red wine/gorgonzola/mushroom sauce stuffed with linguine.

Here’s the timbale with the innards exposed. A definite must-order.

Our next stop? Roberto’s.

This is a Shrimp/Scallop saute appetizer in a pomodoro sauce with hot peperoncinos and guanciale. Roberto’s is always a challenge to photograph in due to the very low light conditions.

Fresh agnolotti stuffed with a goat cheese/fig and truffle oil mixture in a simple butter sauce. Fantastic.

I had thought Rachel wimped out with her dish but it was actually very good — a stuffed chicken breast with mozzarella cheese, prosciutto di parma and spinach in a wine sauce.

Brandon was in a meaty mood. He went for the mixed grill, with broccoli rabe.

My main dish was one of the specials, a veal scallopine with shiitake mushrooms, prosciutto and gorgonzola cheese.

Chef Roberto asked us if we’d like to head over to his other restaurant, Zero Otto Nove (“089″) for dessert. Zero Otto Nove is a pizzeria in the Naples tradition, rather than New-York style pizza.

The restaurant is cavernous inside, with 20+ foot high ceilings. I’m taking this shot from the balcony area overlooking the dining room and the pizza oven.

A view of the wood burning pizza oven from above.

Looking up at the upstairs dining area in Zero Otto Nove.

This is a classic Pizza Margherita being made, with Italian Doppio Zero (Double Zero) flour, exactly how it would be done in Naples, Italy. Doppio Zero is a softer, more talcum powdery flour in consistency than is used for American-style pizza, and yields a product with a pliable/chewy rather than a crispy crust. It’s a totally different animal of pizza. I had seen this true Neopolitan style reproduced before in New Jersey at A Mano in Ridgewood, but the the local Bergen County clientele just didn’t get it and the pizza recipe had to be altered to fit more American-style tastes. It looks like in the Bronx, however, that the traditional Napolitano pizza formula at the two year old restaurant is thriving.

This is a white pizza with mushrooms.

Looking down the firey maw of the pizza oven, which approaches temperatures close to 1000 degrees when running full blast.

The oven is so hot that pizzas cook in approximately one minute.

Almost as quickly as the pizza goes in, it comes out.

Here’s the white pizza with mushrooms.

Pizza Margherita.

Nutella pizza, for dessert.

I loved the holiday lighting on Arthur Avenue. You’ll notice that it does a really good job of representing the integrated community and melting pot of the Belmont section of Bronx, with Albanian/Kosovan/Montanegran Muslims, Jews, and Italian and Mexican Christians.

5 Responses to A January Jaunt on Arthur Avenue

  1. gailcasale says:

    Terrific piece! I’m hungry now ;-)

  2. Jim says:

    Arthur Avenue… one of our favorite places and wow, Jason, did you ever do it justice. Especially the photography in the post, which is incredible.

    Here was my attempt, several months ago:

    http://www.ithinkthisworldisperfect.com/2009/05/afternoon-on-arthur-avenue.html

    And this follow-up:

    http://www.ithinkthisworldisperfect.com/2009/06/arthur-avenue-redux.html

  3. lickedspoon says:

    This post is a complete delight. I love everything about it, from A (the arancini) to X (multi-cultural xmas lights). Ok so that doesn’t quite work, but you know what I mean. I’m seriously hungry now, so thanks for that.

  4. Lou says:

    Go to Antonio’s on Belmont Ave to meet the supreme Arthur Ave insider Joe who holds court from behind the bar. A visit you wont forget. and the food is excellent too!

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