As residents of New York City, we are, quite luckily, surrounded by food. No matter where you go or what you do, there is always a place to eat. Sometimes good, sometimes bad; but in the end, we are still able to find sustenance.
The important question is: where is the really good food? On my search to find the best food in the city, I managed to have a weekend full of good eats. Friday began with a fresh fettuccine with shrimp and mushrooms lathered in white wine sauce. Saturday concluded with the crispiest Belgian waffle with drizzled maple syrup. But Sunday was the day I found really good food during the Ferragosto event in the Bronx. Little Italy is thought to be found in Lower Manhattan, where at one point a large population of Italians resided. This past Sunday, however, I discovered that the “real” Little Italy is found in the heart of the Bronx, known as Arthur Avenue.
Once you step into this area, that looks more like the set for a movie than a real place, you can smell the baking bread in Addeo’s Bakery, see the fresh meat sold in Vincent’s, and hear the mothers yelling in Italian to their children. Arthur Avenue is not merely a tourist destination; it is a full-on Italian experience. Every year on the second weekend of September, Arthur Avenue presents the Ferragosto Festival. In Italy, it is celebrated on August 15th to celebrate the day of harvest, as well as commemorate the hard labor done that year. They have street performers, live music and many special events.
For New Yorkers it is a day of wonderful food. Tents are set up along the streets offering fresh samples of classic Italian cuisine. The freshly made gelato cools your mouth to the point of brain freeze while a bite into the savory Italian sausages enclosed in a tight bundle of roasted peppers excites the taste buds. In front of your very eyes you can see a woman as old as the recipes themselves making homemade zeppoles.
As I walked down the densely packed street, I could not help but stop in front of each food vendor. Every restaurant had a story to tell; their recipes came from great-great grandmothers back in their hometowns in Italy. While we have every type of food at our fingertips in supermarkets today, we lose the cultural backgrounds of the recipes themselves. Foods in stores are packed full of preservatives to let them last for weeks on the shelves. The fresh mozzarella sold at the festival will only last for a few days, but it will allow you to taste the true ingredients that made the cheese. Sometimes by experiencing the most simplistic foods, we can value them the most.
People are constantly creating and discovering certain tastes and flavors, and the Italian delicacies on Arthur Avenue are examples of unique family recipes that have been perfected over the years. Go there to taste spectacular food; you will be pleased!
To get to Arthur Avenue: Take the #4 train or the D train to Fordham Road, then transfer to the eastbound BX12 bus for the short ride to Arthur Avenue.