Tag Archives: Bronx

My search for the best pizza in New York continues….

Of all the pizza options along Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, Mario’s might be the most interesting. And not just because it was featured in the book The Godfather. When you step inside the restaurant you are immediately transported to another time and another place. And whether you are here for a casual solo lunch or a family reunion, the white tablecloths, dessert carts, and dramatic decor make you feel like this is a special occasion.

And nothing about this makes me think of pizza. It’s barely on the menu (hidden in the appetizer section) and the neighboring tables have overflowing plates of penne ala vodka or eggplant rollatini. Not a pizza in sight.

Thankfully I had done some research and I discovered not only did Mario’s first start as a pizzeria in 1919, but it is considered the best pizza in the neighborhood by some in-the-know circles.

You know me, I like to be in the know, so I came in one day to order the appetizer pizza. A large pie was also available I was informed, but this was actually my third meal of the day and I didn’t want to leave any over.

Nothing about the visuals of this mini-pizza struck me as impressive. Aside from a scattering of basil, if I had ordered a pizza at the roller skating rink in 1987, it very well could have looked identical to the one at Mario’s. It did not look like what I expect at a restaurant with white table cloths like this one.

But it was certainly much better than roller skating rink pizza (at least from my memory of the roller rink stuff). The crust was great – very crisp and with an impressive char. Just like a bowl of pasta, the waiter came over and topped my pie with parmesan which was a nice touch.

Perhaps the best part of the pie was the red sauce (Mario’s is definitely what you would call a red sauce joint). Bright and tangy with bits of pepper, it was a nice foil to the hot buttery cheese.

If anything, this meal proves that looks can be deceiving. I never would have guessed some of the best pizza in Arthur Avenue would be served at a fancy restaurant while looking like a cheap after school pie but tasting like the real deal. The Godfather himself would be proud.

Is Mario’s Restaurant the best pizza in NY? It looks much better than it looks and it gets an 8 out of 10 not just because it’s a surprising fun environment but also because it tastes really good.

MARIO’S RESTAURANT
2342 Arthur Avenue (between East 186th Street and Crescent Avenue),
Belmont, Bronx
(718) 584-118
mariosarthurave.com

Category: Pizza

My search for the best pizza in New York continues….

One of the newest tours I give is a food tour up on Arthur Avenue, which any New Yorker will tell you is the real Little Italy. The Bronx neighborhood is densely populated with traditional Italian bakeries, cheese shops, butchers, and amazing restaurants. In fact, I’ve been trying to work my way through all the red sauce joints and I realized there must also be incredible pizza up here.

So my journey has been reignited specifically up in the Bronx. There will be a number of reviews in the coming weeks of the pizza options in and around the neighborhood of Belmont. (more…)


Category: Pizza

I’m counting down the 100 best dishes I tasted in 2017…

This year was another crazy ride. And while politics and breaking news stories often drifted into my anxious psyche, food still played an important role. And this year was full of surprising dishes that were nourishing, pleasurable, and a much-needed distraction. Here now are the top 10 dishes – an exciting mix of hearty classics like burgers and lasagna, along with some brilliant vegetable concoctions.

NUMBER 5: FRESH MOZZARELLA at JOE’S ITALIAN DELI

If you study this 100 Best list, you’ll see I spent a lot of time up on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx this year. It was part of my job giving food tours. Tough job. By far the best thing we taste on the tour are these bits of fresh mozzarella made throughout the day. Joe’s is only a second generation run business, but both generations have the magic touch when it comes to making the cheese. The mozzarella is so clean and fresh that I feel absolutely no guilt when eating it. It’s truly the best I’ve ever tasted.  Price: $8.49/pound

JOE’S ITALIAN DELI
685 East 187th Street (between Cambreleng and Beaumont Avenue),
Belmont, Bronx
(718) 367-7979
joesitaliandeli.com

NUMBER 4: NEW CREATION at SUPERIORITY BURGER

Amazingly, this is a vegan cheesesteak. But instead of bland and temperamental soy or tempeh, we get shaved and griddled yuba, Yuba is the skin of tofu and in this vessel, it is shaved very thin and browned to an almost meaty-crispness. It also has the tenderness of thinly sliced steak. To enhance the cheesesteak sensation, gloppy cashew cheese, caramelized onions, and some pickled cucumbers are added. It’s served in a roll and is truly one of the best cheesesteaks I’ve ever had. Even though there’s no cheese and there’s no steak. And this establishment is definitely not in Philadelphia. Price: $7

SUPERIORITY BURGER
430 East 9th Street (between First Avenue and Avenue A),
East Village
(212) 256-1192
superiorityburger.com

NUMBER 3: LASAGNA ALL BOLOGONESE at TRA DI NOI

It’s hard for me to resist classic lasagna when I find it on the menu and I’m so glad I gave in at Tra Di Noi. The amazing thing about this lasagna was how richly flavored it was yet it also had a surprising delicacy. The thin pasta layers were masterful with just the right amount of cheese and the meaty bolognese was hearty without being a full-on gutbomb. Imagine that: a refined red sauced lasagna in a classy restaurant nestled in the Bronx that most Manhattanites have never heard about. Price: $13.95 (lunch)/$17.95 (dinner)

TRA DI NOI
622 East 187th Street (between Hughes and Belmont Avenue),
Belmont, Bronx
(718) 295-1784
tradinoi.com

NUMBER 2: BURGER at CAFÉ ALTRO PARADISO

Every year I manage to discover a new burger that changes the game of my view on the burger scene in New York. And this year it came from an Italian restaurant in Soho of all places. Unlike most burgers in the city, this rich patty was peppery and charred like usual but it also had an extra kick of flavor from fish sauce, chile oil, and rosemary. Then it’s topped with funky gorgonzola, a sweet caramelized radicchio, a red pickled onion and a caper before it’s sandwiched on a buttery brioche bun. Can’t wait to see what burger will steal my heart next year. Price: 22

CAFÉ ALTRO PARADISO
234 Spring Street (at 6th Avenue),
Soho
(646) 952-0828
altroparadiso.com

NUMBER 1: CORNBREAD + CRAB at GRISTMILL

I never would have guessed my top dish of the year would have been discovered at an unassuming brunch in Park Slope, Brooklyn. But here is the exquisite cornbread from Gristmill. I’ve never seen a piece as browned and caramelized on the exterior with a sweet rich and crumbly corn-filled center. To ensure it’s place in infamy, it’s topped with some serious jumbo lump crab and a garnish of edible purple flowers. Needless to say, this is not your grandmother’s cornbread. Price: $12

GRISTMILL
289 5th Avenue (between 1st and 2nd Street),
Park Slope, Brooklyn
(718) 499-2424
gristmillbk.com

I’m counting down the 100 best dishes I tasted in 2017…

Those that have been to the iconic Dominick’s on Arthur Avenue know there is no menu. The surly waiters come over and ask what you want. Not everything is available every day, but you should hope for the baked clams which have browned crisp bread crumbs and a pool of lemon butter and herbs. It tastes like Little Italy.
DOMINICK’S
2355 Arthur Avenue (between East 187th Street and Crescent Avenue),
Belmont, Bronx
(718) 733-2807
restaurantsnapshot.com/Dominicks/

I’m counting down the 100 best dishes I tasted in 2017…

There are many bakeries along the Italian enclave of Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. But only one makes something called white chocolate bread. And Madonia Bakery only makes it for holidays and on the weekends. When I’m lucky enough to give our Arthur Avenue food tour, I find myself in heaven. I’m not even a fan of white chocolate but it works wonders in this perfectly made soft bread with a just browned crust. The baked pieces of cooked white chocolate are a pleasant not too sweet surprise. And if you’re lucky enough to get a loaf right out of the oven, you’ll enter a whole other dimension of delicious. Price: $4.50

MADONIA BAKERY
2348 Arthur Avenue (between East 187th Street and Crescent Avenue),
Belmont, Bronx
(718) 295-5573

I’m counting down the 100 best dishes I tasted in 2017…

I didn’t realize that meat bread was a real thing until I visited Arthur Avenue and tasted the dangerously addictive ciccioli at Addeo Bakers. For three generations, the Addeo family has been practicing high quality baking from their olive loaves to their excellent bread sticks. But the locals know to come here on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday for the ciccioli. Commonly known as lard bread, this baby is more than just that with bits of sausage and prosciutto throughout and a rich peppery bite. Where has this been my whole life?? Price: $5

ADDEO BAKERS
2352 Arthur Avenue (at East 186th Street),
Belmont, Bronx
(718) 367-8316
addeobakers.com

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