Take a Tour of Arthur Avenue With an Italian Pasta King
Manhattan's Little Italy may be disappearing, but up in the Bronx, an enclave of descendants from that southern European nation still leads a vibrant existence, turning out cured meats, freshly made cheeses, just-shelled clams, and filled-to-order canoli from a stretch of shopfronts along Arthur Avenue. And you won't find the tourists here that fill the sidewalks downtown -- most of the patrons of these spots are neighbors, and they speak Italian with shopkeepers while they pick up their groceries.
All photos by Laura Shunk Giovanni Rana gets ready to guide us along the shops of Arthur Avenue
Giovanni Rana, an Italian baker who built an international tortellini and ravioli empire (you can pick up his pasta at Eataly and many other local grocery stores, and he is the patriarch of the family who owns Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucina in Chelsea Market), was in town last week, and so he ate with us along this row, offering his thoughts on what makes good cheese for pasta, how you know if you're buying good bread, and why salami -- all salami -- is delicious.
Our first stop is a market stand on the street, where Mr. Rana points out the whole dried fish, a specialty in the Veneto region of Italy.
Next, we stop into Calandra's (2314 Arthur Avenue, Bronx, 718-365-7572), a cheese shop that's been operating since the 1930s. This spot makes its own mozzarella and ricotta, and it also imports Parmigiano-Reggiano from Italy ("Parmesan is from Wisconsin," the proprietor tells us).
Mr. Rana is particularly impressed with the quality of the ricotta, which has a subtle flavor and creamy texture. Ideal, he says, for filled pasta like ravioli.
Up next, a meat shop.