The summer heat is on, but July and August are among the best months to visit Little Italy in the Bronx. Fordham University is on break and the weekend sidewalks are less crowded than usual. There's always something going on at the nearby New York Botanical Garden and with more people at the beach, you might actually be able to get a table at Zero, Otto, Nove.
Because Italian food is famously seasonal, there are many specialties only available or best enjoyed during the summer. Here's our list of can't-miss tastes of summer in New York City's best neighborhood.
Zucchini & Eggs
Nothing makes me miss my grandmother more than zucchini and eggs. Her garden was always brimming with them in summer and like most Southern Italians, she always put them to good use. Ralph at Cafe al Mercato in the Arthur Avenue Retail Market makes a zucchini frittata. Ask him to stuff it into a roll for you for an old fashioned and classic Italian-American lunch.
Somewhere between a sherbet and a Sicilian granita is the Italian ice and no one makes them better than Egidio's Pastry Shop. They're not full of ice shards or overly sweet like the packaged kinds, but silky and light and so refreshing on a sweltering day. I recommend the almond flavor made with freshly ground almonds which the bakers also use for the best rainbow cookies you'll find anywhere.
Speaking of sweet treats, have you ever tried an affogato? (If you haven't and you're a coffee drinker, prepare to have your life changed for the better.) It's a small cup of gelato with a shot of espresso on top. I recommend getting one with hazelnut (nocciola) gelato. Try one at Marketta, a new stall just inside the Arthur Avenue Retail Market.
Mozzarella & Tomato
When it's too hot to cook, a caprese salad of tomatoes and mozzarella is a perfect dinner. While there are many fine mozzarellas on Arthur Avenue, the very best mozzarella is found on 187th Street at Joe's Italian Deli. You won't see them stretching it to great lengths because experts know that over stretching it causes the milk to fall out and the cheese to become dry and rubbery. It's always a favorite bite on our signature Shopping & Tasting Tour.
If you're hosting a summer barbecue, you can now use Vincent Meat Market's new website to place your order. They even deliver and ship to those beyond the driving route. Vincent's is an old-world butcher shop which offers quality and service you can't find anywhere else. They'll dry age steaks for you, prepare the most perfect porchetta and hand slice chicken or veal cutlets to order which are like works of art. And if you're a wine drinker, Christian has 10 wine pairings for your Arthur Avenue sourced barbecue.
Oysters on the half shell
The sidewalk raw bar at Cosenza's is open year round, but summer is the best time to fully enjoy it. After you've done a bunch of shopping and need to refill your meter in the municipal parking lot, pause for some Blue Points and watch the shoppers go by.
A few years ago I rented a weekend house upstate with friends and was happy to see a running brook on the edge of the property. "I can use this to wash lupini beans," I remarked as my friend groaned and shook her head. In Southern Italy, peasants would put dried lupini beans in a pillow case and set it in a running stream to wash away the bitterness. Of course, you can just buy a big jar of them at Teitel Brothers and enjoy these salty, protein packed beans as a summer afternoon snack. Just make sure you know the lupini bean legend which explains why once you start eating them, you can never get enough.
Linguine with bottarga
Have you ever had bottarga? It sounds little strange, but hear me out. In Sardinia and Sicily they take the roe (egg) sack of a mullet fish, salt it and then air dry it. Then it’s sliced very thin or grated over pasta. I like to call it Italian caviar. It’s not always available, but Mount Carmel Foods inside the Market usually has it and will special order it for you if they don’t. It’s a delicacy that will last in your fridge for a very long time.
Want to come on our signature Shopping & Tasting Tour? See the calendar below and book your tour now. Or book a private food tour.