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My first trip to Arthur Avenue!

Unfortunately the pictures are on film and I don't have a scanner in the US right now, so no pics, but here's my story.

I lived in Bensonhurst for the longest time so I never felt a need to head to Arthur Ave and I frequently thought of it as just another fake Little Italy. If I could stroll down to 18th Ave for pretty much everything, then why become a permanent fixture in a D train seat on a ride that would be so long that I might actually die before I reached my destination. All in all, didn't seem too appealing.

Well now I live in Woodside...

Made the drive out to Arthur Ave quite early yesterday and arrived there around noon to a relatively empty market and quiet streets. The overall appearance was in itself a relief compared to what my worst fears conjured up (think Little Italy.) Armed with my trusty list of places on a sheet of paper towel (one of those "Where the hell did all that Staples paper go?" post-move days.) First stop was the market just to give myself some bearing on the area. A quick browse was interesting enough, but I didn't really get into much until I started talking to some people. For one, I was pleasantly surprised to find most people speaking Italian and not just Italian, but dialects. Pretty much any conversation I heard was in Sicilianu, Nnapulitanu, or Calabrese. That was a big plus! My fears was dispelled a bit more. The market itself is tiny (I'm comparing it to London markets like Brixton though so it's not a fair comparison) but it had some good stuff. The store on the far left from the Arthur Ave entrance has a great array of Sicilian (she Nap though) items that I usually have trouble finding and they have VERY high quality pine nuts. The prices are not low though. They had capers in salt too! I found Cafe del Mercato to be a bit pricey so I didn't end up getting what I planned and instead travelled around snacking on samples more or less. I left the market itself with a cleaver, some Sicilian olive oil, blackcurrants, etc. The produce didn't look that great for the prices in there. Cosenza's fish market was excellent and I did get a screamingly fresh bronzini there. I also greatly enjoyed the outdoor seafood bar where I had a few oysters. My only complaint is that both the triglie and sardines looked terrible and this was still early in the day. I can get either one super fresh at any given time near 86th St back in Brooklyn from my favorite fishmarket in NY (the only one I like better is in Comogli.) Teitel's had a great selection, but was not as amazing as many seem to make it out to be. It just seemed like a normal enough store with only an OK olive selection. Calanda Cheese down Arthur Ave has glorious mozzarella and basket cheese. I think I actually liked the basket cheese better! Back up a bit at Calabria Pork Store I tried a bunch of their salami and soppresatte before settling on one of the original free sample ones. They had two samples out, a smaller and rounder one which was quite good and a longer one which was really something special. The fact that they don't slice it is my only complaint so it's 11 dollar stick or nothing basically. Walking back to the car we got bread at Madonia as well as two excellent cannoli. An iced coffee bought by my companion at DeLillo along with a sfogliatelle (average sfogliatelle) was pretty good. Our final stop was Borgatti's which has a great atmosphere and EXCELLENT prices (especially given how high they are at some places in the nabe.)

In the end the fruits of my trip have or are leading to... salt crusted bronzini, caponata, pasta con le sarde, a ragu with broccoli rabe sausage and a chunk of lamb and some pork belly cooked in it, fried chicken cutlets, a large batch of my world famous anchovies ;), and I think that's about it.

All in all I'd definitely make it a regular trip. The $5 toll is a shame.

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  1. teitel's is relatively inexpensive. otherwise, their wares are not that great relative to the other shops in the area.

    the large ricotta ravioli at borgatti's are divine.

    next time, get the ricotta at the calabria pork store. and check out the albanian arthur ave--the bureks at tony and tina's (heated in the oven, not the microwave) are great.

    1. Where is your "favorite fish market in NY?" (mouthwatering report, thanks!)

      2 Replies
      1. re: cassis

        Me too. I read the original post and came away wanting to know what her favorite fish market near 86th Street is.

        Tell us, please.

        ("I can get either one super fresh at any given time near 86th St back in Brooklyn from my favorite fishmarket in NY")

        1. re: cassis

          I believe the fish market he is referring to is Sea Breeze II on the corner of 18th Avenue and 85th Street in Bensonhurst (directly under the 18th Avenue Stop on the "D" subway line. It is terrific and moderately priced.

        2. Next time go to Casa della Mozzarella, really outstanding fresh mozzarella, got heros there a couple times with sundried tomatoes, roasted peppers, etc, and they were just excellent. I believe they supply the cheese for Roberto's restuarants as well.

          Have you ever been to Sorriso's in Astoria? Alot closer than Arthur Avenue, and such a great place, the best eggplant parm that I've had anywhere, fantastic fresh mozzarella, and many other great items.

          I also thought the cannoli's were superb at Madonia, so fresh and light. The other 2 bakeries I tried though, were average at best.

          Have you been to Cannelle Patisserie yet? Another must visit in Queens.

          Teitel bros was a very intense place with very intense people, on both sides of the counter. A real throwback.

          It's really fun to get a bunch of food and then go to the Zoo or the gardens and have a little picnic. We've done it a few times, and it's been great.

          5 Replies
          1. re: janie

            I haven't been to any of the mentioned Queens spots. My fish market in Brooklyn is on 18th Avenue just before 86th St. It's the only fish market on that particular stretch and its on a corner. I can never remember the name. Super reliable especially for Italian and Med stuff. Teitel Bros was interesting, but didn't wow me. The prices were a bit lower for the area, but it still seemed pricey compared to Brooklyn so I was really blown away by the possibilities.

            Thanks for the replies. I'm male btw to the above her poster. We considered the burek but never made it that far in the other direction and we sort of have an old reliable burek stop in Ridgewood, Queens sooo...

            1. re: JFores

              Shot in the dark: Sea Breeze?

              -----
              Sea Breeze
              8500 18th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11214

              1. re: squid kun

                Yep to both of the above. I can never remember the name (of any business.)

              2. re: JFores

                "Thanks for the replies. I'm male btw to the above her poster."
                _____________

                Yes. I knew that and my apologies. I had typed fast and had erred.

                And the fish market is Sea Breeze. I checked it out today and purchased some very large shrimp and some filet of salmon. Thanks for the recommendation.

                1. re: pizmet

                  No problem. Aren't they nice in there. If you speak Italian, you're golden.

            2. Since you are in Woodside and near the Qboro bridge, you can avoid the toll by taking the Qboro and 3rd Ave bridges. It will add to your time, but it can be done.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Val55

                Yeah, we considered 3rd Ave the whole way, but we figured that in itself might cost as much as the toll in gas.

                1. re: JFores

                  Even faster than the 3rd Ave bridge, take the Qboro Bridge and go up the FDR to the Harlem River Drive all the way up to 179th, make a right on Amsterdam and take the bridge that's 2 blocks north, it turns into the Cross Bronx. Take the second exit and head north to 187th St and make a right. No tolls. Very direct.

                  1. re: ballulah

                    Thanks a lot I'm definitely trying this way. Seems a lot more reasonable than fighting my way up 3rd Avenue.

              2. Thanks for this post. Good, personalized point of view. You never know how much you'll dig something until you make the trip and try it. We've been meaning to make that trip ourselves, pretty much all summer. But good intentions and a satiated, full stomach are two different things. More power to you.
                P.

                1. Next time go to Randazzos for fish and clams, other side of the street and a block south, they play ball with any fish market in the NY metro area.

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: byrd

                    Yes I agree - wonderful fish. And I love standing outside and eating freshly shucked clams and oysters.

                    Olive Oil - the house brand at Mike's is excellent, I think. I also buy a lot of products at the market across the way from Mike's - I'm guessing the one where the OP bought the Sicilian items. I'm usually looking for Sardinian ones.

                    Compared to the prices on the UES (not surprisingly), the prices of the produce are great, but I agree that sometimes the produce doesn't look so great.

                    1. re: MMRuth

                      We buy many things in the Arthur Ave. section - bread, cheese, salumi, pastry, fresh pasta, meat (Biancardi is great), T&T's burek, etc. - but produce is not usually on the list.

                      1. re: Striver

                        There's good produce to be had in the Arthur Ave. market but you have to be there early for the best selection. Look closer next time as they often sell their older stuff cheap....works well for me when I'm making stock.

                        1. re: Striver

                          Striver, as you pointed out, Arthur Ave is not a destination for produce. Many years ago, there were TWO fruit and vegetable stands on Arthur Avenue that were fabulous. The two were practically right next to each other and always in friendly competition. Maria's Fresh Roasted Coffee Beans & Gifts at 2378 Arthur is what separated them. Also, at that time, the retail market was 100% occupied with wall to wall produce vendors with selections aplenty. This day and age, unfortunately, the market is showing no signs of making a comeback - transition, yes - but comeback, no. Cigar-rolling has taken precedence.

                          JFores, anything good left on 13th Avenue that you care to mention? I think that was where you grew up, IIRC. I remember the Brooklyn days. Still have people in Dyker. We can flip-flop stories. I grew up in the Arthur Ave community.

                        2. re: MMRuth

                          I need to take note of Biancardi for meat as well as Randazzo's for fish. While I enjoyed my oysters and the bronzino from Cosenza's, much of their selection looked a little under the weather (and that was at noon sooo...)

                          I have easy produce access in Jackson Heights so I'll only be picking specific stuff up at Arthur Ave (artichokes and parsley for ei. Bengalis and South Asians of all sorts don't seem to sell parsley and it's annoying to have to go all the way to Met Foods on 37th Ave for it. And every time I pass the paan vendor I have to buy two, so walking for parsley is harming my health.

                          1. re: JFores

                            Ahem, is *paan* harming your health ?

                            You're probably getting the spicy ones.

                            1. re: Cheese Boy

                              Yeah, I'm not the biggest fan of sweet paan. I stick mostly to the "I'm an old man from Sylhet" variety. It could also be thought of as the "My teeth are going to be mysteriously red if I keep this up" variety.

                              Yep, grew up off of 13th Avenue. Right now there's really not a whole lot left. If you have down then you've got Aunt Butchie's which still has probably the best ices in the area. A bit further is Meze for better than average (at least) Greek (I think they're Cypriot but I can't remember.) You've got B&A Pork Store, but their location is more a matter of convenience if you don't want to walk to 18th Ave because you can get everything and more further down. Unfortunately now the home of a sushi place, there were two good places that operated out of the same (cursed and doomed) storefront off of 74th. One was a very Sicilian foccaceria/fried everything place and the other was a solidly good Italian place called The Copper Pot, but both died out. There was a heavily mobbed up Italian place further down 13th around the Eckerd, but that pretty much died out too. The pizza in the area borders on inedible though Il Forno was OK if the slices were eaten molten before that too died. Yeah, not looking like a good stretch for food these days. However, if you want to meet some real live members of a somewhat exclusive Sicilian fraternal organization, Cafe D'Angelo (kitty corner to my long time house) is so packed with them at all hours that it is not advisable to ever actually go there. In fact, the only time I've ever seen anyone but "regulars" go in was when Italy won the world cup and they were giving out free sweets and shots (and despite enthusiasm which included jumping on top of the B1 buses, shooting off fireworks WITH the local cops, and partying in general, the older locals still maintained a completely stoic lean against the front window while chewing on tooth picks.)

                              1. re: JFores

                                'However, if you want to meet some real live members of a somewhat exclusive Sicilian fraternal organization, Cafe D'Angelo (kitty corner to my long time house) is so packed with them at all hours that it is not advisable to ever actually go there.'

                                JFores, this place alone might be worth the trip, and then I'll head over to 18th Ave from there. Too bad Bensonhurst/Dyker has lost some of its flair. Those were some really fun times.

                                1. re: Cheese Boy

                                  Haha, it'd be interesting to see someone actually go in. I think they have gelato, pastries, coffee, etc too so it wouldn't be a bad place to stop in if it weren't for the fact that it gives off an air of "do not come in." Bensonhurst is practically gone but I've had my fun with the changing times. The Russian influx is not something that I lament, though the growing loss (blitz) of 18th Ave is getting pretty worrying. Sicilian speakers are getting rare too :(

                                  1. re: JFores

                                    For Produce, you'd be surpised but the supermarket on Arthur Ave: MODERN, has excellent produce. MUCH better than in the market. I think it has something to do with just how cold the store is kept.

                                    1. re: amanda24

                                      You are so right, the Modern is the best! I think it's the management is just so good at maintaining freshness. They really care. I just love the place!

                      2. The thing that amazed me about Arthur Ave when I first visited there was the huge number of bakeries and pastry shops in such a small area -- I think I counted over a dozen.

                        And no trip to Arthur Ave is complete without a pizza. Best in the city.