Tag Archive | "Little Italy"

Bronx’s Little Italy set for Sunday festival

The Belmont area of the Bronx will celebrate its annual Ferragosto festival to mark the end of the summer season this Sunday, DNAinfo reported. Food vendors, musical guests and other merchants are set to line the streets of Arthur Ave. in the Bronx. Other entertainment is also scheduled throughout the day in honor of the annual Italian tradition, which marks the change of seasons with food and festivities. Frank Franz, chairman of the Belmont Business Improvement District, says most people consider the festival to be the "biggest and most successful festival all year" within the Belmont area.

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Better luck at next year’s Savor the Bronx

eggplant

The legendary Mario's Restaurant served its regular fare for restaurant week (LINDSAY MINERVA/The Bronx Ink)

Holy cannoli.  No special prices at Mario's for the Bronx’s first annual restaurant week?
Instead, customers looking for a deal at the iconic Arthur Avenue restaurant were offered a free glass of Montepulciano red wine and a complimentary crash course in all things Italy. Ionic columns and brick arches frame the dining room overflowing with Roman sculptures, portraits of Tuscany, Italian flags, and endless family photos.
Owner Joseph Migliucci said he could not offer a special prix fixe menu because his family-owned business in Belmont already offers the best food on Arthur Avenue at a great price as it is. “Being here 92 years, we feel we’re the best restaurant on Arthur Avenue,” said Migliucci, 73, who has been working at the restaurant named after his father since he was 13 years old.
Mario’s was one of 40 restaurants chosen to participate in “Savor the Bronx,” an event that offered customers a chance to explore the borough’s culinary diversity at a discount from Nov. 1 to Nov. 13. Migliucci believed the promotional two weeks did not bring in any more customers this year.
What started as a pizza parlor with six tables in 1919 now seats more than 100 in what is now one of the most famous Italian restaurants in the city’s “Real Little Italy.”  Migliucci’s father Mario, his uncle Clemente, and great grandmother Scolastia--all originally from Naples--opened the restaurant after they moved to the United States.
The cheesy penne-rigate sorrentina made with southern Italian sauce went for $13.50e with southern Italian sauces. The pasta was hidden beneath a layer of baked mozzarella. Ricotta cheese oozed out of the thick tomato sauce. Another popular southern Italian dish is the stuffed eggplant for $9, also known as eggplant rollatini. Slightly under-cooked, it hid bits of beef and sausage not mentioned on the menu. For these heavier dishes, the pleasantly crispy sesame bread with olive oil and butter soaked up the savory tomato sauce. It’s worth a trip to Adieo, where the bread is made everyday, just two stores down. The clams oreganate at $9 for 5 were seasoned with oregano and baked with bread crumbs are somewhat lighter. The fresh clams--bought from the Cosenza’s fish market across the street--were served with squeezed lemon on top. “Restaurant Week did not really help us, but it was the first year,” said Migliucci.  “Maybe next year it will catch on.”  

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A futbol store for Little Italy

Gregorio Castro owns a soccer shop near Arthur Avene

An item emblematic of Mexican sports fans hangs from one of the racks of Gregorio Castro’s sporting goods store in Belmont. It’s a green wrestling mask with white borders around the eyes and a small Mexican flag sown on its forehead. “Fans use those when they go to the national [soccer] teams’ games” says the 46 year old businessman, who runs the "Mexico Sports Center" store in Little Italy. A lifelong fan of the Mexico City club Pumas, Castro opened his store three years ago after noticing his kids and their friends had to go all the way to East Harlem to buy their Mexican soccer gear. Castro figured there were enough Mexicans in Belmont to sustain a soccer store. On his storefront he displays a beach towel with the colors of the Mexican national team and colorful cleats. Inside he sells the latest replica jerseys of Mexico’s most popular teams, which go for $80 each. Strangely enough, Castro’s best selling jerseys are not the red and white striped Chivas de Guadalajara shirt, or the neon yellow Club America jersey. Instead, he has been most successful at selling replica jerseys of Barcelona, Manchester United and Real Madrid. “Perhaps the clients have forgotten about their favorite team,” he said with a smile.

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Take the cannoli — with a heavy dollop of family tradition

Anthony Artuso Sr. may have cannoli and entrepreneurship in his genes. The Belmont native and one-time aspiring aeronautical engineer recalls scrubbing pots and pans at his father’s pastry shop when he was 13 years old. His father, Vincent Sr., bought the pastry shop for approximately $12,000 in 1946 after returning home from World War II.
Anthony Artuso Sr., in the back of his pastry shop, next to chocolate-dipped cannoli shells. Photo: Brent Ardaugh

Anthony Artuso Sr., in the back of his pastry shop, next to chocolate-dipped cannoli shells. Photo: Brent Ardaugh

Now Artuso, 63, and two of his children, Anthony Jr. and Concetta, have transformed the shop’s retail and wholesale locations into multi-million-dollar pastry powerhouses. According to Artuso, he sells over nine million cannoli a year, and in 2009, the wholesale location alone made nearly $6 million in sales. His current clients include Whole Foods, Hyatt and the New York Yankees. Artuso and his brother Joseph operate the retail store on the corner of Vincent F. Artuso Sr. Way and Cambreleng Avenue. Assemblyman José Rivera named a section of East 187th Street after Artuso’s father to honor his dedication and success in the pastry business, a legacy the Artuso family strives to continue every day. When Artuso comes to work, he sports polished shoes, slacks with a crease, a cell phone above his right hip and an eye for detail. “That tag on those cookies is falling down,” he said to one of his employees standing behind the glass display case. “See if you can straighten that out.” Artuso may be meticulous, but he remains well-liked and respected by his employees, some of whom have worked for him for many years. “He’s a good business man,” said Amanda Rivera, who works behind the counter at Artuso’s retail store. “He’s always telling us that we have to stay focused on the customers.” Artuso’s interest in customer service is not new. Even as a teenager when he was working for his father, Artuso was interested in recruiting new customers, keeping existing ones and expanding the family business. Artuso never really considered himself a first-class baker. He was always more of a helper, he said, an experience that he believes helped shape the man he is today. “In those days when you worked with old-time Italian bakers, they were very rough especially if you were the boss’s son,” said Artuso of his teenage years at his father’s shop. “They [old-time bakers] used to say go to the hardware store and get a gallon of pigeon milk; tell me to go out and get a bucket of steam. I guess it made a man out of you. If you managed to survive, you became a better person.” Years later, when Artuso became the boss, his children worked for him and also took away many life lessons. “I’ve really learned a great sense of business from my father,” said Artuso’s daughter Concetta, who operates the wholesale location in Mount Vernon with her brother. “My father taught me how to think like a customer and how to be sensitive to their issues.” Artuso did not acquire his clever business sense by accident. When he was growing up, Artuso would spend such long hours working that his mother would make Sunday dinner in the back of the pastry shop. When Artuso was nine years old, he would go to the liquor store located across the street from the shop to buy beer and wine for dinner. The employees at the liquor store would sell him liquor, even though they knew he was underage, because they knew his father. When Artuso returned to the shop, he and his family would sit down to eat macaroni and meatballs with tomato sauce, at the same marble table they used to prepare cakes on previous days. Today, if he had the choice to have one plate of any food in the world, Artuso said it would be his mother’s homemade bolognese gravy with rigatoni. When customers enter Artuso’s pastry shop, they are treated like members of his family. “The Artuso family is not only the finest bakery in the world but the finest family in New York City,” said Thomas Leigh, who stopped into the shop to show Artuso a picture of his son in the newspaper. “There’s no soup kitchen nearby; they come here and the Artusos feed them. We’re talking about the work of Jesus Christ.” Over the years, Artuso has hired hundreds of employees from the local community in his attempt to help residents secure and maintain jobs. He has also donated gift certificates and cakes to charitable organizations and helped put underserved people in contact with landlords. The Belmont community was not always like it is today, he explained. He says it hit rock bottom in the 1990s before a revival. Sales increased and crime in the neighborhood went down. He attributed the revival in part to local attractions like the Bronx Zoo, Fordham University and the New York Botanical Garden. “We’re opening up another retail location and trying to expand the wholesale business,” said Artuso. “If my father knew about all this expansion, he would be smiling right now.”

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