Friday, September 3, 2010

Foodista Takes Arthur Avenue - Get Ready for Some Serious Food Porn

Last weekend, I embarked on an amazing adventure with my family and good friends, Ellen, Richard and Jonathan, to the Bronx' legendary, Little Italy section, also know to many simply as "Arthur Avenue."  I've been wanting to come here for years, but never mustered enough motivation or knowledge about where to go and what to explore.  Lucky for us, our friends, Ellen and Richard know the area like the back of their hand, and with their expertise, we not only dined in a fabulous Italian restaurant, we also shopped until our wallets emptied and our forearms ached from carrying bagfuls of irrisistible Italian specialties.  I simply can't express in words how wonderful and culture-rich this area is - and for you serious foodies, I think it's a must.

Since my photos throughout this experience were so vivid, and I think quite beautiful, I'm going to showcase them throughout the post in addition to the top, as I usually do.  Enjoy them, and I hope they inspire you to visit this Italian food haven real soon.

Zero Otto Nove - 2357 Arthur Avenue, Bronx NY 10458

4 Train to Fordham Rd

A welcoming restaurant from the inside and out, Zero Otto Nove offers one of those true Italian experiences that you want to repeat over and over again.  The interior is rustic and cool, with a long corridor in front that leads to a large dining room with high ceilings and gorgeous skylights.  A brick oven is the main showpiece in the room and the minute you walk in, the most divine smell envelops you.

Since we lunched there, we decided to order light, splitting a couple of pizzas, two different salads and a handful of hot antipasti.  Everything was scrumptious and really fresh, with the blistery pizzas as the clear stand-outs.  I particularly loved the La Cirilo pie, with butternut squash puree in place of traditional tomato sauce, cream of truffle, mushrooms and fresh mozzarella.  The truffle essence was really pronounced and I savored each bite, inhaling its intoxicating aroma before sinking my teeth into the crusty dough. 

In terms of the antipasti, I was really into the special of the day, which consisted of shrimp, seasonal zucchini, zucchini flowers (my favorite!) and bread crumbs.  It had a light, lemony taste, providing a perfect way to enjoy lunch. My dining companions all agreed that the food at Zero Otto Nove was off the charts.

Borgatti's Ravioli & Egg Noodles - 632 East 187th Street, Bronx NY 10458
4 Train to Fordham Rd

After lunch, we were off to Borgatti's pasta shop to satisfy our fresh pasta fix.  Ellen highly recommended the ravioli because that's what they're known for, and I followed her lead.  After some ambivalence, I chose a 100-pack of fresh ravioli minis stuffed with spinach and meat.  They looked divine and I can't wait to make them soon, together with my heirloom tomatoes that I get weekly from the Brooklyn Grange/Vesta CSA

Besides the raviolis, which have their own counter at the shop, Borgatti's also carries many varieties of dried pasta and other specialty fresh pasta such as squid ink spaghetti. It all looked fabulous and the prices were great.  For a 100 pack of the raviolis I just described, we paid $12.50, which is a steal in my book.

Casa Della Mozzarella - 604 East 187th Street, Bronx NY 10458
4 Train to Fordham Rd

How could we leave this amazing neighborhood without getting a proper supply of mozzarella?! Ellen once again led us to the place for just that - a store dedicated mostly to fresh mozzarella cheese, not surprisingly named Casa Della Mozzarella. 

It was a tiny, narrow shop with many, many people, and we had to take a number and wait on a long line to be served.  It didn't matter though because the line progressed quickly, and once we got to the front, we got a taste of their amazing bocconcini (mini mozzarella balls), which were unbelievably milky and delicious. I've never indulged in mozzarella cheese that was this fresh and it totally rocked my world.  So in addition to getting a pound of these little, soft knots (yes...they were actually knotted), I also split a hunk of smoked mozzarella with my parents.  And then I also splurged on a small tub of fresh ricotta, which was only $3.50/lb - it tasted like creamy custard and felt like a light airy cloud.

Cosenza's Fish Market - 2354 Arthur Avenue, Bronx NY 10458
4 Train to Fordham Rd

We made an impromptu stop at Cosenza's Fish Market where Peter, Jonathan and I sampled fresh oysters.  I found it amazing that they had a counter with these gorgeous flowers-of-the-sea right there to taste for whoever got a craving while walking by.  At only a $1.00/piece, they were not only inexpensive, they were oh so tasty.  We shot them with some fresh lemon juice and cocktail sauce, and they went down like butter! Mmmm...what a treat!

De Lillo Pastry Shop - 606 East 187th Street, Bronx NY 10458
4 Train to Fordham Rd

This was the last stop of our Italian tour, and because of all the stuff we ate earlier, we needed a pick-me-up.  Most of us got some sort of espresso-based drink, whether in the form of a cappuccino or straight up .  I got the iced cappuccino (pictured above) and it reminded me of a Greek frappe, which I enjoy drinking in Astoria.  Frothy on top and ice cold in the middle, it was the perfect way to end a "tough" day of eating delicious food.  Of course we couldn't resist a little cannoli and napoleons too.  They must get their ricotta filling from one of the incredible suppliers in the nabe, because it was just divinely delicious and super light.

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