You might think of dessert when you hear the word "pastry," but in Italy - and, by extension, in Little Italy in the Bronx - pastry is also breakfast and an afternoon pick-me-up snack. It's a good thing, then, that there are so many great pastry shops along Arthur Avenue.
Some of these shops have tables and might be a place you'd sit for a moment with an espresso, but it's more appropriate to think of these pastry shops as one of the places you'd go on your regular grocery shopping rounds. Yes, you can certainly get flaky breakfast pastries at these spots, but they'll also tempt you with colorful rainbow cakes, crispy biscotti, flaky sfogliatelle, and freshly-filled cannoli.
After all the walking around you'll be doing, whether it's on a food tour of Arthur Avenue in the Bronx or just to pick up provisions for that evening's meal, there's nothing better than the reward of traditional Italian sweets.
580 E 187th St.
Gino's opened in 1960, which - in Little Italy in the Bronx - means it's one of the newer pastry shops. The business is now run by Gino's son, Jerome, and the interior doesn't appear to have changed at all. The storefront is included in the Broadway set design of "A Bronx Tale," and it's a favorite haunt of the show's star, Chazz Palminteri. Pick up powdered amaretto cookies or freshly-filled cannoli, but don't expect to find a place to sit while you eat - there's only one small table.
622 E 187th St.
The oldest pastry shop in the Arthur Avenue neighborhood is Egidio's, which opened in 1916. The shop's position across the street from Our Lady of Mount Carmel means it's long been a Saturday and Sunday afternoon stop for churchgoers. The shop is now run by Carmela Lucciola, but she's using not only Don Pasquale Egidio's original recipes but also the original wooden dowels for rolling cannoli. It's Egidio's award-winning cannoli that are the real stars, perhaps thanks to the secret recipe. Feast On History hosts classes in the bakery kitchens.
670 E 187th St.
Even if you've never set foot in Artuso Pastry in the Bronx, chances are good you've eaten their pastries - this is where most of the Italian pastries on restaurant menus around metropolitan New York come from. Vincent Artuso bought an existing pastry shop after World War II and renamed it, expanding the business over the years to include other branches and a wholesale division. Artuso's cannoli shells are made at a factory in Westchester, where the other retail location is.
2349 Arthur Ave.
Right on Arthur Avenue is Morrone Pastry, where the cases are full of classic Italian cookies and cakes and the cafe's few tables give lucky customers a chance to bask in the sweet aromas of the shop while they sip a cappuccino. This relative newcomer has, as far as I'm concerned, the best sfogliatelle and Italian cheesecake in Little Italy. As an added bonus, it's right next to the municipal parking lot so it's (dangerously) easy to pick up one last pastry before heading home.
610 E 187th St.
The first DeLillo's was opened in 1925 by two brothers from Calabria. The shop has moved from its original location, and it's now run by the family of a man who worked in the bakery starting in the 1950s, carrying on the DeLillo family tradition. The new and much-larger space is a comfortable place to sit down for a cappuccino break while shopping or going on a food tour of the Bronx. Writer Don DeLillo is a part of the extended DeLillo family, and he grew up in the Arthur Avenue neighborhood. He's best known for the bestselling novel, "Libra," and has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for fiction twice. He attended Fordham University in the Bronx, and DeLillo's Pastry Shop remains a popular date-night spot for Fordham students to this day.
2344 Arthur Ave.
The newest pastry shop on Arthur Avenue, Caffé & Gelato is run by a husband and wife team from Sicily. It's a slice of contemporary Italian life inside the bustling Arthur Avenue Retail Market. The service really makes you feel like you're in Italy - a small cup of water follows every espresso, pastries are served from a tray, and Italian expats flock from all over the NYC area. In other words, it's the perfect place to practice your Italian language skills. My favorite pastries are the pistachio-encrusted cannoli and the bombolone (fried doughnuts), which are only available in the mornings. For an authentic Sicilian treat, place a special order for a cassatta siciliana.