New Yorkers know that choosing a neighborhood to live in is basically the same thing as choosing a lifestyle. The whole point of living in places like Greenpoint, Bushwick, and Sunnyside, instead of ya know midtown Manhattan, is to enjoy real, honest-to-goodness neighborhoods and all of the charm, mom-and-pop shops, old school delis, and the occasional quiet that comes with them. And it seems that Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYC & Company have caught on, having recently launched "Neighborhood x Neighborhood," a series of hyper-local guides to the enclaves not only of Manhattan, but all of the boroughs (yes, even Staten Island).
With guides to "must-see" locations in neighborhoods across the city, this campaign is designed to bring tourist dollars to the outer boroughs and encourage the development of small businesses in these areas.
"We've focused on bringing more tourists to neighborhoods outside of Manhattan," said Bloomberg in a statement to the press, "And it's paid off with more hotels being built and tourism-related economic activity happening in those boroughs. Our neighborhoods are what make New York City unique, and visitors who explore the boroughs beyond the beaten path are sure to be rewarded with unforgettable, only-in-New-York experiences."
According to the city, 72 hotels have been built outside of Manhattan in the last six years alone.
So how do these itineraries hold up? We chose one—the meat-and-cheese mecca of Arthur Avenue in the Bronx—and put it to the test, visiting (nearly) every site included in the neighborhood guide to vet it for your convenience, because that's just how we do.
We have long been feasting on Arthur Avenue's bottomless cornucopia of cured meats, breads, and cheeses. But braving hordes of Italian grandmothers for a spot in line at the best shops along the Avenue is an intimidating matter. That's where this guide becomes invaluable. It suggested Casa Della Mozzarella, Cosenza's (and outstanding sidewalk raw bar), Biancardi's butcher shop, Madonia Brothers Bakery, Cerini Coffee and Gifts, Peter's Meat Market, DeLillo Café and Pastry Shop, Borgatti's Ravioli & Egg Noodles, and finally, Roberto Restaurant.
Each location in the guide comes with a little blurb on its history, a short summary of the products offered, and usually a quote from the proprietor. The only problem we had with the guide is that it didn't provide much in the way of tips on navigating the area and its embarrassment of culinary riches. Here's what we'd add:
Fodor's (Additional) Arthur Avenue Tips
If you value your life, do NOT go to Arthur Avenue on the weekend. This is prime time for residents to hit the shops, which makes finding a parking spot and a place to stand in the shops very difficult. These are not large stores, and lines are typically out the door by late morning, especially at places like Casa Della Mozzarella and Borgatti's. Cold, wind, rain—nothing stops the locals from packing the joints, and you could be waiting hours in line.
Have cash on hand. You'll want to make it in and out of these shops quickly; these are not tourist shops, so you'll be elbow to elbow with hungry locals who are trying to get home to make dinner for their families. This is not browsing territory.
Pace yourself. You're going to want to sample from every shop on the itinerary. For your own health, don't. Lay a base by picking up biscotti at Madonia Brothers (head straight back when you enter the shop, the back counter is less crowded). Then hit Biancardi's next door, where you'll want to muscle your way to the counter for samples of meat and cheese. After that, head to Cosenza's sidewalk raw bar, for fresh Blue Point oysters, shrimp, and littleneck clams.
If there's one rule of thumb on Arthur Avenue, it's follow the firemen. They routinely park their trucks on the street and split up to hit the shops. They know where the good stuff is and they like to eat, so you can't go wrong following their lead. Plus, you know, eye candy.
The specials at Roberto Restaurant are phenomenal. We had fresh pappardelle with a rabbit ragu and spicy pecorino cheese. Trust us—go off-menu.
When you get to Borgatti's, you'll probably find organized chaos inside. Upon entering, bear right if you want fresh, cut-to-order pasta. When you get to the counter you'll be asked to pick the thickness of the pasta, which goes by number, starting with the thinnest. We recommend a "4" for beginners. Bear left for fresh ravioli and manicotti. And be patient.
Unless you really love fresh-ground coffee, skip Cerini. The smell of the ground coffee is intoxicating, but other than that, the "gifts" are rather cheesy...and not the good kind of cheesy.
Photo credits: All photos courtesy of NYC & Company