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Mar 24, 2007 04:01 PM

Foget Arthur Avenue.....go to our Bleecker Street

Just went there for the second time. Could have stayed on Bleeker Street and had a better experience.

Our own Faicco's is better than the famous Mike's Deli. (Their bread for the Italian Hero is so hard "it needs to be toasted," they told me.)
Our own Rocco's beats both Madonia and Addeo Bakeries. Cannoli are FAR better.

Da Andrea (a short walk from Bleeker) is better than Roberto's, Mario's and Dominicks.

Don't waste time going up there. We've got better here.

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  1. Most of the Arthur Avenue places are Albanian. I visited Arthur Avenue last year and have no plans to return.

    1 Reply
    1. Good call on Da Andrea. Loooove it, one of my favorite Italian places in NYC! :)

      1. hmm, if you just went there for the 2nd time, how on earth did you eat a MIKES hero and at all those arthur bakeries and restaurants?

        also, funny thing is i just had the standard italian heros at both MIKES and FAICCOS in a row this week, and in fact i just finshed off the last half of my FAICCOS hero for lunch today ----> my taste test says it's a wash, both are equally very good.

        20 Replies
        1. re: mrnyc

          (hmmm, i ate at all those places because we eat a lot of little bits at a lot of different places when we try a new neighborhood...and we take home a lot of leftovers)

          The fresh mozz (featured on TV all the time) at Mikes is hard and tasteless. The bread for the sub is more like a French baguette and not like a soft Italian loaf. The "greco" bread is not that good. Dominicks is a hassle for OK food. (It's a churn and burn place). Mario's had good manicotti...but not worth the drive (or LONG subway the bus ride). Roberto's was the best of the three, but easily replicated in Manhattan.

          The cannolo at Madonia was stuffed to order (very good..but just like Rocco's) but the cheese was yogurt, not sweet. Their special cookies ("walnut special" and "house special" I believe they are called) were too dry...and it wasn't even the end of the day.

          The only great bread at Addeo was the sesame roll. I've been to both branches, too.

          Eating baklava-like dessert in Astoria (there's one that's a combo birds nest plus baklava) proves that Astoria is indeed special, foodwise. Arthur Avenue is interesting...but not food special.

          1. re: NAtiveNewYorker

            hmm, indeed.

            as far as taste its true what you say about the moz and the bread at MIKES, but i like it like that and that is what makes it mikes. a little different not better or worse imo. besides, the moz at FAICCOS is not all that. and the buns? as you say yourself its a different take -- but there is not only one style of italian bread.

            taste is one thing, but really what i dont get is the focus here. a remark like, "Roberto's was the best of the three, but easily replicated in Manhattan" is patently unfair to a neighborhood only a few blocks large. i thought you were comparing to italian around bleecker street?

            ditto your final shot, "Arthur Avenue is interesting...but not food special." while its true belmont is somewhat isolated and hard to get to, i don't recall being able to get bureks served in pizza joints on bleecker.

            1. re: mrnyc

              My original post was a warining to people with a low threshold for hassle/driving/parking/transit. If you have all the time in the world, Arthur Avenue is of course worth a visit. If you're looking for special, unique flavors, it's not worth the trip. We went twice, spent the whole day and evening looking for some incredible sauce/pasta/pizza/sub that we couldn't get in Manhattan. We were unsuccessful (unlike our two trips to Howard Beach).

              Just look at how tough we all are on Manhattan's own Little Italy. ("Fun to vist but mediocre food"; "Stay away"; "Walk through and eat somewhere else").

              I was just trying to assess Arthur Avenue (which is VERY charming) with that same microscope. That's all. I appreciate your additions to my original post.

              1. re: NAtiveNewYorker

                Well, there certainly was no semblance of any warning on the hassles of driving/commuting/parking at Arthur Avenue in your original post.

                Anyway, while we’re never smitten by any of Mike Deli’s products, we’ve always had a few dishes to positively reminisce about every time we drive back home from an always enjoyable dinner at Roberto’s. It’s always a worthwhile trip for us if we end up at Roberto’s – nothing to favorably compare with in our own very mediocre Little Italy.

            2. re: NAtiveNewYorker

              If you ever get back there, I suggest the following changes to your shopping list as a good start: get cheese at Calandra's or Casa di Mozzarella, which specialize in it (although frankly I've never found Mike's mozz to be either hard or tasteless); get bread at Terranova; get pastry and cookies at either De Lillo's or Morrone's (Madonia is primarily a bread bakery and is best for lard bread and provolone bread - not for pastry or cookies, like Rocco's). Other postings have described the pleasures of shopping at Calabria (pork), Borgatti's (fresh pasta/ravioli), Biancardi's (butcher), etc., so I won't go into details here.

              For restaurants, I tend to agree; we like Roberto's very much but there are certainly places of equal quality in Manhattan (although Roberto's regular "special" pasta in cartoccio is fabulous, and I've never seen it anywhere else - nor have I ever had a better osso bucco), and the rest of the restaurants are of middling quality.

              Overall, what I love about Arthur is the great shopping variety within a small area. You don't like one deli? There are four other good ones within a 5 minute walk. Don't like one pasticceria? There are five more within 6 blocks. The same is true of butchers, bakeries, etc. - and everyone has their favorites. It's the neighborhood as a whole that works, and it's well worth exploring, IMHO.

              1. re: Striver

                Since I work only a few blocks away and live in a part of Manhattan that is not Bleecker St, maybe I'm a little biased, but the original post was off-base: Arhtur Avenue is best with a wide range of prima materia, very well priced, and very well served--from Terranova's classic bread to the cordial and professional butchering available at Biancardi's and the other 2 butchers. You failed to mention Casa di Mozzarrella for tis cheese or even mention Borgatti's, the best pastaio in the city or Calabria Pork Store, which makes a better and wider range than Faiccco's which is also an excellent salumeria. Or Teitel, that immigrant museum, with its beautifully priced Parmigiano. I'd agree about the restaurants, and think Mike's is overrated, but overall, AA is a better place for shopping for family meals, with good variety, prices, and a sense of place vanished elsewhere.

                1. re: Striver

                  For me, Randazzo’s Seafood is worth a trip on it's own.

                  1. re: Striver

                    Thanks for saying all that without me having to, Striver! I was just on Arthur Ave this Saturday, because I was having an insane craving for Borgatti's ravioli, provolone bread from Madonia, and the best prosciutto and mortadella and homemade sausages and salami in the city (Calabria Pork Store). The added bonus is that it's a much more leisurely shopping experience than anything you'll find in Manhattan, in my experience. I've never found anything particularly special inside the Arthur Avenue Market itself, but 187th and Arthur Avenue itself is a food nirvana for me. And I've also been to Bleecker St and DiPalo's, etc etc.

                    1. re: ballulah

                      Forget Mike's Deli, it's becoming a tourist trap. Get a sandwich, or better, a pizza with broccoli rabe or a bowl of pasta fagioli at Cafe al Mercato. When I enter the Calabria Pork Store it's like I've just hit the streets of Cosenza. Nothing like it in Manhattan.

                      1. re: BronxBoy

                        Well since this post drifted off manhattan, if you want a great italian sub within very easy striking distance of manhattan, go to Vito's in Hoboken...the artisnal hoboken bread along with their house made mozzerella is very difficult to beat....another deli in hoboken certainly worth a visit is Fiore's, same deal hoboken bread and housemade muzz, very old school...

                        1. re: Cpalms

                          Thanks! I'll bring a Faicco's Ital. Sub with me for a fair, real time comparison.

                      2. re: ballulah

                        Thanks indeed, Striver, for saving ballulah and me the work. I agree NAtiveNYer--without hitting the spots that Stiver, obob, Pat and ballulah detailed, you're missing out on the best that Arthur Ave has to offer, and unfairly writing it off.

                        Madonia has great breads, and fantastic pizza dough, but for pastry, you have to go to Morrone's or DeLillo's. Randazzo's is a new addition to my AA itinerary, and I'm thankful to the friends who dragged me there--oysters on the sidewalk outside Randazzo's are fresh and luscious, and a great treat on a nice day. And for all that's been said about Mike's on this thread, I have to say that the sandwiches I've gotten there have been strikingly fresh with fantastic ingredients. They have super nice staff, one of whom made us a whole sandwich just as they were closing up one evening, after all of the slicers and counters had been cleaned up for the night. And their spicy dry sausage must include fire as an ingredient, and is fantastic incindiary stuff. And though I've never had their fresh mozz, it's a treat to stand there and watch them make it.

                        Nothing I've found anywhere (including DePalo's, Joe's Dairy, Murray's) competes with the extraordinary ricotta delicately served up at the Calabria Pork Store.

                        And that's not even getting me started on Borgatti's and the fantastic Arthur Ave sfogliatelle...

                        1. re: rose water

                          My pleasure rose water. FWIW, I lived in the West Village in the late sixties when it was still a very Italian neighborhood though in decline as such even then; what remains is a pale shadow of the past. That's not to say that there aren't some notable stores still doing business like Faicco's, but the feeling of being in a real old-school NY Italian neighborhood is long gone. Belmont is one place you can go if you want to know what that was like - and to feel yourself immersed in a neighborhood that is in no small part devoted to the art of eating (and therefore living!) well.

                          I'm also amused by "our" Bleecker Street - last time I checked, both Bleecker and Arthur Ave. were in the same city. As another native NYer, I consider them both "mine" - maybe I'm just a bit less provinicial than the OP? :)

                          1. re: rose water

                            This is time of year when Randazzo's will prepare their sea urchins "on the half shell" too. Sea-licious!

                            1. re: Pat Hammond

                              That sounds amazing, Pat. Italian uni? And they really shuck them and serve it up raw right there? This I've got to try!

                              1. re: Spoony Bard

                                Yes, they do. They crack them open, and then you're on your own. If you plan to make a special trip, give them a call first to be sure they have a fresh supply.

                                1. re: Spoony Bard

                                  Hi Spoony, I was there today and no sea urchins to be seen. So definitely call ahead. I can vouch for the clams on the half shell though. I said I wanted 3 small ones (they were for dessert!) one was about the size of a dime, so I got 4 in all. Oh my goodness, they were wonderful!

                                  1. re: Pat Hammond

                                    Thanks for the update, Pat. If that was dessert, I can't imagine what dinner must have been- a cannoli perhaps?

                            2. re: ballulah

                              I don't think any place in NYC beats Di Palo's - best cold cuts and cheeses from all over italy - imported olive oil and most of all a bit of history from the DiPalo family. They also have ready to heat up home-made Lasagna, eggplant parm and sauce you would think your mother made it yesterday. they sell all kinds of ravioli as well. give it a try. you will love it.

                      3. The original comment has been removed
                        1. I live on Cornelia St., across from Faicco's on Bleecker. I grew up shopping on Arthur Ave. I can tell you that there are many Italian products that you can find on Arthur Ave. that they have never even heard of on Bleecker St. Don't get me wrong- I shop in Faicco and Murray's and Ottomanelli all the time (rarely Rocco, though- the bread and sweets are way better at Sullivan Street Bakery), and some of their stuff is excellent. But you are comparing apples and oranges. Bleecker St. is a tourist mecca, where, if you dig deep enough, you will find an Italian history, but with scant authentic remains. Arthur Ave. is an actual Italian neighborhood. Where have all the family-run businesses with actual Italians making/preparing the food gone? They're still there on Arthur Ave.- try Tino's, Borgatti, Vincent's. Ever eat a loaf of bread at Rocco's? Awful. Madonia and Addeo actually make real Italian bread. I know Rocco personally- he's a nice guy, a real Italian throwback and long-time village resident. His cannoli are good- but Italians don't eat cannoli every day. Tourists on Bleecker St. do. So it's hardly a fair comparison. I say give Arthur Ave. another shot- try the pizza in the back of the retail market. The chicken parmigiana sandwich art Tino's. Clams on the half shell outside of Cosenza's. Spaghetti alla chitarra from Borgatti, mozzarella from Casa della Mozzarella... skip Mike's and Roberto's if you want to find what's really unique and Italian about the Bronx! Good luck.

                          15 Replies
                          1. re: vvvindaloo

                            One of the best things about living in lower Westchester is being close to Arthur Ave. I go often, sometimes just to walk around and "window shop". I can't seem to locate a place that carries botarga (dried mullet roe), though. Has anyone seen it anywhere on Arthur Ave.?

                            1. re: Pat Hammond

                              Two places come to mind to try, though I cannot say I am 100% sure that they will have it:
                              1) retail market- if you walk in and to the left, there are two counters that sell Italian imports, mainly from Southern Italy. I am pretty sure that the counter against the long left wall (leading up the mercato pizza) is run by a Sicilian family, and they ought to have it.
                              2) Tino's. Tino's Deli has a whole wall of Italian imported products, including seafood items such as tuna, anchovies and sardines.
                              In the alternative, ask at the fish stores (Randazzo and Cosenza). I doubt that they sell it, but they might know who does.
                              Finally, if you don't have luck in the Bronx, I am fairly certain that Manhattan shops such as Agata & Valentina (UES), Citarella (UWS) and BuonItalia (Chelsea Market) carry it. Good luck

                              1. re: vvvindaloo

                                I've found that the absolute best place to buy it is at Di Palo's - about $80 a pound, which is better than the $125 for 1/4 pound or so that I saw at Dean & Deluca. I did a pretty thorough search - by phone - around Manhattan last summer and at the time, Di Palo's was the only place that had it. Never seen it at Citarella and I shop there pretty much every week (UES and/or Village). Also asked around on Arthur Avenue (including the two fish stores) and no luck - was generally told that I'd have more luck finding it in Manhattan.

                                1. re: MMRuth

                                  Thanks for the tip. I know I bought it at Buonitalia once, and that Agata and Valentina carry it... but who knows where you'll find it at any given time. I am not surprised to hear that it cost a fortune at D&D- what doesn't?!

                                  1. re: vvvindaloo

                                    I'll have to check out the price at A & V since I'm also on the UES. The good thing about Di Palo, in addition to the price, is that in the year and a half or so that I've been buying it, they've always had it. The one thing that I have found cheaper at D&D, believe it or not, is Emmi yogurt!

                                2. re: vvvindaloo

                                  The folks in Cosenza looked at me blankly and at Randazzo I was told simply, "No". Pretty sure I tried that place in Market, where I've bought nice anchovies. Anyway, thanks for giving it some thought. I do love di Palo and will get in there again one of these days.

                                  1. re: Pat Hammond

                                    I'm sorry to hear that you struck out. It appears as though the three definite places that carry it are in Manhattan: BuonItalia, DiPalo, and Dean & Deluca.

                                    1. re: Pat Hammond

                                      Pat Hammond- I found Bottarga today in the Retail Market, at the counter that I mentioned in my post, above. It is called Mt.Carmel Foods (or something to that effect) and they have a 50 gr. jar for $25.99. Teitel Bros. also has bottarga, but they sell it as a whole piece, for $30. Tino's will get a shipment of it from Sicily in the fall.

                                      1. re: vvvindaloo

                                        Great research! I've never seen it in a jar. The price for the jar seems a bit high (4 oz = about 100 gr), but the Teitel Bros. price is about on par w/ Di Palo's - one lobe ranges from $23 - $28 and weighs about 4 oz. I think the fall is when the "new harvest" gets shipped, so that makes sense w/r/t Tino's.

                                        1. re: MMRuth

                                          Thanks. Basically, the one in the jar is already ground and salted for you, like a condiment. I have seen it sold that way in Italian specialty shops.

                                        2. re: vvvindaloo

                                          Thank you so much! I'll absolutely try those places when I go next.

                                  2. re: vvvindaloo

                                    Nice post with which I totally agree but for a few points: first, although Tino's is great, there are some items I just love at Mike's, like their stuffed breads (great quick dinner) and their stuffed cherry peppers; Mike's reggiano is also very good (Teitel's is cheapest, but doesn't equal Mike's quality), and they carry great speck. Second, when Roberto's is on its game, they prepare some of the best Italian dishes I've had anywhere, using ingredients mostly gathered from the fine purveyors in the neighborhood (agree on Mario's though). Finally, for basic bread we prefer Terranova (Madonia for specialty breads) - but that's the glory of the Belmont nabe: choices, and lots of 'em.

                                    1. re: Striver

                                      Hi- I think Roberto's can be one of the best Italian restaurants in NYC when it wants to be- but it is not unique, nor do I feel it is a compelling recommendation over Manhattan restaurants for a person traveling from Manhattan (as I believe the OP is). Mike's Deli bothers me. I don't know why- it isn't a rational thing, but a temperamental one :) I have no doubt that their sandwiches are good- I just feel that they are too hyped and too commercial (again, not rational) to interest me much. Also, we have a tendency in my family to buy all of the salumi and bread separately, take it home, and let everyone enjoy as they will. I personally don't eat many mixed meat sandwiches, so that might be another reason that Mike's does not appeal to me. I am related (by marriage) to the Terranovas (sshhh), and my family has always bought bread all over the neighborhood, focusing on one place or another at different periods in time. I tend to like Addeo's the best, though Madonia has some great stuff, too. Terranova is a classic- it is also distributed widely throughout Westchester (where most of my family lives) at various Italian delis, so we don't go out of our way to buy it in the Bronx. I certainly am not knocking their bread- I just don't prefer it. You're absolutely right about how great it is to have so many quality choices.