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From marzipan lambs and colomba cakes to everything you’ll need for pizza rustica, head to the Bronx’s Little Italy for these Easter treats.
In the weeks before Easter, the Arthur Avenue section of the Bronx is bustling with shoppers who brave long lines and challenging parking to pick up traditional Italian delicacies, the best imported ingredients, and pastries. Danielle Oteri, whose great-grandfather was an early shopkeeper in the neighborhood, is often among the Easter shoppers as the co-founder of Arthur Avenue Food Tours, which curates food-and-shopping tours along Arthur Avenue and the surrounding blocks. Here are the five stops she says you have to make.
Calabria Pork Store
The famous sausage chandelier — hundreds of dried sausages dangle from the shop’s ceiling — has inspired many Instagram posts, but there’s more to the store than good social-media content. Those dangling sausages, which come in sweet, hot, and very hot, are made in-house and perfect for incorporating into a traditional pizza chiena (aka pizza rustica aka Easter pie).
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“At one time, the only thing Calandra’s sold was ricotta,” says Oteri. “Old timers still call it the ricotta shop.” Though the selection has grown substantially to include truffle-veined pecorino and Prima Donna (a cross between Parmesan and Gouda), it’s still the place to go for fresh ricotta, sourced from the shop’s Pennsylvania farm, for pizza rustica and pastiera cakes.
Café al Mercato
A visit with Ralph Esposito at this stall in the Arthur Avenue Retail Market is a good way to refuel for the rest of your shopping. In the week leading up to Easter, make a point to order his pastiera, a golden, crunchy-on-top spaghetti frittata.
Gino’s Pastry Shop
Steer your gaze away from the hand-filled cannoli and amaretto cookies, and you’ll find trays of pearly marzipan lambs at Gino’s, which has been in business since 1960 (a relatively short time for the neighborhood). They’re a “very rare” Easter delicacy “traditional to Sicily,” says Oteri.
Mount Carmel Gourmet Food
This store imports a variety of Easter favorites, including giant chocolate eggs in colorful wrappers, but the crème de la crème is the Italian colomba cake from famous patry chef Pietro Macellaro. “This is like the Pappy Van Winkle of cake,” says Oteri. “[It’s] very special and they just have a few.”
Interested in joining Oteri for a tour of Arthur Avenue? You can find more information, book a space on an upcoming tour, or inquire about curating a custom experience here.