Where to Eat on Arthur Avenue: My 3 Favorite Restaurants
While much of the focus of Arthur Avenue is as a one-stop-shop for all your Italian market needs, Little Italy in the Bronx has as many great restaurants as it does food shops. While we love all the restaurants in Little Italy; Antonio's Trattoria, Enzo's, Emilia's, Dominick's, Ann & Tony's, San Gennaro Trattoria, Mangi Pasta, Pasquale's Rigoletto, Roberto's and Gerbasi, there are standout dishes at each one.
If you're looking for Sicilian home cooking, we know the place and the precise thing to order. Best stuffed clams? You'll find those at a different spot. When I'm in the mood for exquisite cheesecake I go to the restaurant where it's homemade and unlike anything you'll find in the pastry shops. Our new Pizza, Pasta & Parm Tour is the perfect way to get to know the restaurants on Arthur Avenue and 187th Street, but if you're short on time, here are our three favorite Little Italy restaurants, for three distinct reasons.
If you want contemporary Italian food, just like you would get in a restaurant in Italy today, go to...
2357 Arthur Ave.
When you want an authentic meal identical to what you might find in any good restaurant in Salerno, you go to Zero Otto Nove. (The name of the restaurant comes from Salerno's telephone code.) Roberto Paciullo's second restaurant, opened in 2008, as a more casual version of Roberto's with a Neapolitan style pizza oven. The Arthur Avenue flagship has been so successful that Paciullo has opened locations in Manhattan and Westchester and has recently expanded the dining room at the original.The menu is packed with all sorts of southern Italian dishes, though, from pasta to seafood to ragù Salernitana complete with meatballs and a pork skin (cotica) braciola. Always let the waiter tell you the specials. Anything made al cartoccio (cooked in a foil bag) is reliably good as is their short rib special cooked in Peroni and gorgonzola sauce with sweet cherry peppers. They don't take reservations so go early or be prepared to wait.
If you're in the restaurant industry or simply want to eat where chefs eat, go to...
622 East 187th St.
One block from Arthur Avenue, Chef Marco Coletta brings more than a half-century of culinary know-how to Trattoria Tra Di Noi, his cozy "between us" classic Italian eatery. The restaurant is listed in Zagat and the Michelin Restaurant Guide, and the menu features lots of Italian favorites.
So many times, I feel like I've walked into a scene in a Visconti film. Chef Marco is often peeling string beans at one of tables. Several times I've noticed a table of very handsome priests dining together while offering blessings to guests who approach their table timidly as though asking for an autograph. I've also seen local politicians talking over the state of things with napkins stuffed into their collars.
Don't forget to peek at the chalkboard for the daily specials, though, and I recommend ordering whatever is listed there (especially if it's the trippa alla romana). If you're staying on-menu, go with the spaghetti aglio olio (garlic and olive oil.) This simplest of dishes is perfection. Also, no reservations.
If you want to eat at the Most historic restaurant in Little Italy with the best reputation for excellent food and service, go to...
2342 Arthur Ave.
Nowhere on Arthur Avenue will you find better Italian-American and Neapolitan classics than at Mario's Restaurant, a staple here since 1919. Mario's started as a pizzeria with a window open to the street and later became a fine dining restaurant. Today, the fifth generation of the Migliucci family has transformed Mario's once again to give it a more relaxed atmosphere with the same focus on high-quality food. Pizza is still a highlight here, Joe Migliucci makes fresh mozzarella by hand each day for his pies, but you can only get it as your main course during lunch. (At dinner, it's available as an appetizer.) They have classics that are almost extinct on Italian restaurant menus nowadays like snails in butter and garlic sauce and spiedini alla romana which is skewered bread and mozzarella that is deep fried and then topped with a hot anchovy dressing. If you're with a group, order the mixed hot and cold antipasto which includes fried calamari (the best around), stuffed clams, stuffed mushrooms, eggplant rollatini and mozzarella with vinegar peppers. Guess what, they take reservations! They're also exceptionally family friendly.