Canadian Wanderer

Travel plans, thoughts & lessons

Month: September 2017

Tier One Travel & G Adventures “Travel Talk” on Machu Picchu & Tanzania safaris

Mark your calendars and save the date for the 1st annual Tier One Travel & G Adventures Travel Talk!

Join us in the Otter Room of the Valley Zoo for an evening of exotic travel with G Adventures Alberta expert Gary who recently returned from a Machu Picchu expedition and will share insights on his journey as well as exotic African safaris in Tanzania.

Learn more about G Adventures, the small group adventure tour industry leader and its continued commitment to helping travellers experience authentic adventures in a responsible and sustainable manner that preserves the unique cultures of the countries visited.

Admission proceeds are being donated in full to the Planeterra Foundation, a G Adventures founded charity.

Event exclusive discounts are available to those attending along with great prizes so confirm your ticket today on Eventbite as space is limited!


Airport fitness centers that’ll give a run for your money

It’s hard to maintain your workout routine when you’re on the go, so more and more airports have been adding fitness centers. Here are some spots you can hit up while waiting for your next flight.

Arthur Avenue, The Bronx; New York’s real Little Italy

For travellers wanting a really authentic Italian neighborhood experience in New York City leave the convenient confines of Manhattan and the more well known “Little Italy” that’s become a shadow of its former self and venture to the Bronx to sample all Arthur Avenue has to offer as it’ll leave you wanting more.

I’d heard about Arthur Avenue from New Yorkers during past trips to Brooklyn who called it the “real Little Italy” and resolved to seek it out on a future visit to New York City to experience it for myself. Luckily however I didn’t have to go I alone as  the same trio of locals volunteered to accompany me on my midweek midday visit using it as an excuse to both return to a place with fond memories and act as tour guide for a friend.

The Bronx is an almost undiscovered corner of New York by the millions who visit this metropolis and I’m as guilty as the masses as while I could claim to have been to this borough in the past in reality it was only to emerge from the subway before new Yankee Stadium to see a Yankees baseball game. There is much to explore however including the Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Garden and either makes a good addition within walking distance of  Arthur Avenue in the Belmont neighborhood.

There were a few times in my commute from my Manhattan hotel to Arthur Avenue that I asked for directions as I was running late to meet my friends and unfailingly the response was polite and positive steering me in the right direction which further reinforced my comfort level in independently touring all of New York’s boroughs. You need to keep your wits about you but in my experience New York is safer than other American cities and escaping the tourism bubble of Midtown Manhattan rewards an intrepid traveller.

A great place to start a walking tour is at the Arthur Avenue Retail Market , an initiative of legendary New York mayor and Bronx resident  Fiorello LaGuardia. The variety of merchants under one roof is staggering with nine restaurants, five pastry shops, four butchers, two pasta-makers, six bread stores, three pork stores, five gourmet delicatessens, two fish markets, three gourmet coffee shops and one gourmet Italian wine shop – to list only the food category. And then there are the gift and house ware shops and cigar store.

photo by author

Arthur Avenue Cigars is inside the main entrance and it’s worth pausing to watch the skilled hands roll cigars as I’d seen done on past trips to Cuba.

photo by author

photo by author

photo by author

After wandering the aisles admiring sights and aroma of the hanging sausages, fresh fruit and food being prepared in the restaurants, the dilemma of what to have for lunch took a while to resolve but I finally opted for a huge slice of Bronx pizza from Full Moon Pizza

photo credit nycgo

The market has a small seating area to relax while sampling some of the delicacies.

 Arthur Avenue Retail Market by Leonard J. DeFrancisci (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

 Also within the market is the Bronx Beer Hall should shoppers want to linger a little longer.   
Bronx Beer Hall by lulun & kame (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Leaving the market and walking the shady side streets is the best way to experience the neighborhood which centers on Arthur Avenue but extends several blocks on either side.

photo by author

Teitel Brothers Wholesale Groceries was founded in 1915 by Austrian Jewish immigrants who’d arrive in New York through Ellis Island a few years earlier and is managed by a third generation of the family. The authentic imported Italian specialty staples include parmigiano, prosciutto, imported olive oil, canned tomatoes, aged vinegar, pasta, dried and fresh sausage and more and the colourful cans are a feast for the eyes as well as providing a feast for the stomach.

photo by author

During our edible ambling along Arthur Avenue we paused for a lesson in Italian desserts and more specifically the cannoli, a Sicilian delicacy consisting of a fried pastry shell filled with sweet creamy Ricotta filling.

De Lillo Pastry Shop isn’t the only pastry shop on the block but it’s one that’s kept customers coming back for its sturdy, sweet-but-not-too-sweet cannoli’s since 1925. The narrow shop has a few tables to stop and smell the cappuccino but all eyes are drawn to the large deli cases of cakes and cookies that line one side almost as far as the eye can see.

photo by author

A little later we made our way to Gino’s Pastry which is so old school it doesn’t have a website, fugetaboutit. What brought us however was to sample their cannoli’s which unlike De Lillo’s are filled with the delicious and smooth cannoli cream when you order it and so it tastes a little fresher. Note the choice of regular or chocolate covered cannoli shells on the top shelf in the photo below. Decisions, decisions…

photo by author

video by author

While crowning Gino’s cannoli’s king after my taste test and soaking up the warmth of the hospitality extended during our visit I learned Belmont-born acting legend Chazz Palminteri stops by Gino’s periodically for his sweet tooth fix. There’s a birthday cake filled with smooth, authentically flavored cannoli cream named in his honour called “The Chazz” if you’re wanting more than a cannoli.

Gino’s is sporting a new white awning but looks pretty much the same from the street view below.

Sadly I missed a major local Italian festival by a few days as the posters in shop windows were advertising.

photo by author

The Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel which celebrates a century since its dedication in 2017 is the spiritual center of the neighborhood.

 photo by author

What makes Arthur Avenue New York’s “real Little Italy” and well worth visiting is it’s people who have grown up and live in the neighborhood and own the shops and restaurants that have been in their family for generations creating a tight-knit community with a sense of tradition which are two things ingredients rarely found in this big, anonymous modern world.

It’s both a blessing and a curse that more travellers don’t make their way to this part of the Bronx because if they did Arthur Avenue would change and not for the better which is something I wouldn’t like to see happen. For now I’m happy enjoying this small corner of the Big Apple and plan on making many more visits in the future, arriving with an empty stomach and leaving full the delicious food and genuine hospitality.

How to get there
The neighborhood’s approximate boundaries are Lorillard Place to the west, Southern Boulevard to the east, 183rd Street to the south and Fordham Road to the north; the interior triangle formed by Arthur Avenue, East 187th Street and Crescent Avenue holds the majority of the Italian establishments. To get there via subway, take the B, D or 4 train to Fordham Road; it’s another 15–20 minutes or so by foot. Additionally, the Metro North railroad will take you to its own Fordham stop, a 10-minute walk away.

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