The Belmont section of the Bronx is often referred to as the Little Italy of the Bronx or the "real" Little Italy to differentiate it from the more famous Little Italy in lower Manhattan. Generations of Italian families have lived and worked in this neighborhood, and Arthur Avenue in particular has become a destination for anyone who loves fresh mozzarella, red sauce and cannoli (*raises hand*).
Three of us (missed you, Jen!) headed to Arthur Avenue on Saturday with the purpose of eating, and we did not want for choices. The neighborhood is small, but packed with five-star options—the hardest part of visiting is trying to decide where to go when every place looks and smells as delicious as the next.
We weren't on Arthur Avenue for five minutes before Francesca and Lindsey were eating oysters from a sidewalk table set up outside of Randazzo's. I have an almost pathological fear of eating seafood, but I'm trying to be more open about it—especially when it's free—so I couldn't resist when I was offered a clam (my first!). It was slimy and cold and tasted mostly of hot sauce (thankfully), but I don't think I'll be craving that gritty sand aftertaste anytime soon. The guys at Randazzo's were so welcoming and playful—encouraging Francesca to touch the world's slimiest eel and gamely posing for photos—and it set the tone for the rest of the afternoon.
After Randazzo's we did a lap around the Retail Market. The market is small but full of vendors, sandwich shops, butchers and produce stands. I'm always a bit overwhelmed by bustling markets and all of the options and people squeezed into such tight quarters, but they're as much of a visual feast as well as a place to buy items for a literal feast. There are hanging meats, cans of tomato sauces, barrels of olives and boxes of exotic vegetables—you can even watch people hand-rolling cigars out of huge, crispy tobacco leaves.
We left the market without sampling anything, so we were hungry for a proper lunch. Dominick's was one of the restaurants on my radar and it's right across from the market. Dominick's serves classic Italian food, and while our meal wasn't life-changing, the dining experience was a unique one. Dishes are served family style, seating is communal and very cozy, and there is a single menu tacked on the wall—go take a look before you sit down, try not to forget what you want before your server arrives and then be guilted into ordering way more food than you intended.
We ordered the antipasto for one (it was more than enough for the three of us), linguine with marinara, ziti with vodka sauce and three meatballs. We most definitely did not need the ziti or the third meatball, but it's hard not to be swayed by the delicious things on nearby tables and the chaotic ordering style. We left full, happy and a bit overwhelmed—and with enough leftovers for at least two more meals.
SonsAfter we rolled out of Dominick's, we headed toward dessert. I had read that Gino's Pastry Shop fills their cannoli right in front of you, so that was an obvious choice. They don't have a charming vintage sign like Addeo & Sons or Egidio's, but when we walked into the small shop a man straight out of The Sopranos was holding court. He was wearing a track suit and oversized tinted glasses and bragging about his connection to Frankie Valli—I couldn't have designed a better welcome into an Italian pastry shop if I tried.
We ordered cannoli and espresso and watched with anticipation as the chocolate-covered shells were indeed filled on-demand. Cannoli might be my all-time favorite dessert and I can say without hesitation that this was the best one I've ever had. It was so good, in fact, that I got two to go, and they were both gone within 24 hours.
Above photo of the cannoli filling by Francesca (it's super fun having someone else taking photos on our adventures now that she adopted my old camera!), all other photos by me.