The Bronx Exposed

Arthur Avenue in all its glory

The Lowdown on the Boogie Down | Jessica Mannino | February 21, 2016

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Though the off-campus housing rat race usually dawns in November, I copped my Hughes mini-pad at the 11th hour of sophomore year. My prospective roommates (and I, in spirit) scoured the Bronx, hoping for a spot with enough surface area to fit a couch, no less a kitchen table. I don’t know why I’ve never been super adamant about where I live. I am oddly indifferent about certain aspects my life – my well-being and living conditions, to name a few.

Complacency and $700/month bought me quite the unique experience. First of all, my building is so perpetually crooked it deserves its own slant article. Post buzz-in, your ETA to the door of my trap house is roughly 10 minutes, depending on your calf strength. A waft of weed and whatever the fuck the people in apt. 2 are always cooking remind me I’m home. Exposed brick lines the interior, lending the entry-way a quasi crack-house vibe, with a smidge of beanie-in-Brooklyn. Visitors kind of love this because it makes them feel on edge, yet vintage. The apartments are scattered 1,2,4,3,5,6,8,7; a toss up too beautifully abstract to be unintentional. You’d think I’d be all uppity about safety and whatever but honestly I feel secure at night with Churry as my makeshift public safety.

Judge if you like, but I live adjacent to a historical landmark,and for me, that is enough.

THE Arthur Avenue. The OG Little Italy. Belmont AKA the GOAT. I have deep reverence for this place. I get that I’m biased. My connection with the Italian heritage is far reaching. Sure, I’m from Staten Island and was probably a De Lillo pre-Ellis Island. But I feel like I can speak for the masses, even the Irish among us, when I say that living off campus immerses you in an all-inclusive culture.

Doesn’t it make you feel kind of special? Only on the streets of the Bronx could we reserve our right to have a local mozzarella preference. Only in the Bronx is $14 Broccoli rabe a grocery. (Imagine if every establishment on campus was branded with the name of some Italian man. Tony’s Mein Bowl? Some things are just meant for the world beyond the gates.)

I may keep up with Tino’s inventory, but I still don’t have any clue who the EFF Tino is. Who are the founding fathers of this beloved area anyway? Who is Simon and how did he and all of his relatives come to run a low-key monopoly, you ask?

Over a cup of hot-chocolate, Frank Franz, my land-lord and savior, debriefed me on the last 270 years or so.

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1. Simon and the guy that founded Michelangelo are BROTHERS. They are the sons of the couple that owns Tony and Tina. This is the same family that owns The Blue Goose AND Howl at the Moon.They really thought this operation through. Unbeknownst to me, one Albanian family-conglomerate has been providing me with my bagels, breadsticks, and brewskies

2. Mindblown: Tino is dead.  These lovely people, Giancarlo and Rosa, own Tino’s. These legends also own Mt. Carmel Wine & Spirits (P.S. Mt. Carmel was a child’s toy shop. It is no longer a child’s toy shop.)

3. The owner of Palombo (first name Paolo) was a professor at Fordham. Honestly, I pinned him to be a physics guy, but he taught Italian.

4. Who tread the Red, White, and Green carpet of Arthur Ave?

  • Joe Pesci. So as history goes, this stud was originally a waiter at a local restaurant previously known as Arnici’s. He was discovered waiting tables, and from there was cast in his academy-award nominated movie, Raging Bull. Since then, this fine establishment has yet to breed a character of such notoriety. This is almost definitely because it is currently Champs Bar and Grill.
  • Frank Sinatra. He frequented Marios. His favorite dish was the Aragosta Ravioli. The latter cannot be confirmed but I just have a feeling.
  • Clint Eastwood. He is also a Marios enthusiast. I imagine him and Sinatra would have shared a religious experience over burrata.
  • Dion and The Belmonts. Okay so this is a bit of a stretch, but for all of you with a soft spot for the oldies, these folks wrote the song “Runaround Sue” on Belmont Ave, their group namesake. That same spot of creative genius is now occupied by the equally prolific residents of both “The Cage” and “The Sandlot”.

5. Turns out Hughes Avenue was named after John Hughes, who FOUNDED FORDHAM.To think, I’ve gone three years thinking this was all one happy coincidence. Just a bunch of people with good taste: my street namesake, Gabelli, and the late poet, Langston.

6. Biancardi’s Meat Shop(*not to be confused with Bacardi; refer to #2) and Randazzo’s Fish market are cousins.

7. The Library on 187th,if left up to the council of elders that founded it, was going to be named after Mussolini. This is where I’ll end.

Okay sooooo I kind of narrowed it down to highlight the notable figures and the incestuous relations among the pastry shop owners. It may not do the history justice, but maybe it got you thinking that you are part of this brotherhood of man, so to speak.

Honestly, it just makes me feel relevant that I don’t live amid a clusterfuck of chain restaurants. Not to say I didn’t feel this connection living in South, or Tierney, but my morning coffee tastes a little richer from Palumbos than it did from the Grille.

Embrace the thrills of off-campus life in the Bronx, my friends. If the air smells like residual sewage, just focus in on the redemptive culture. It works everytime.