Covering the West Coast & the World
CURRENTLY IN: KITTY HAWK, NORTH CAROLINA
Stay tuned for more from Travelin' Tanya!
Covering Long Island & NYC Boroughs
CURRENTLY IN: LONG ISLAND, NEW YORK
Happy Saturday! We are back in the swing here on Travelin' Cousins after a four month hiatus.
Tanya is traveling along the east coast over the next week, currently enjoying time with family in Virginia Beach. As for me, I'm stoked as ever for so many upcoming blogs and travel stories about local travel.
Although it is true that we are all still in a cautious mode about getting out and quite mindful of social distancing and facial protection, one thing is for certain -- it is Summer!! And years, decades and centuries of the tradition of summer vacation is a hard mindset to break. While many of us are choosing not to travel far or at all, that doesn't mean that we cannot enjoy the pleasures and sites in our local area.
If you have followed me for a while, you know how committed I am to getting the word out near and far about the wonders of New York City's "Outer Boroughs." With so much to see and do throughout the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island, I believe wholeheartedly that everyone in the New York Tri-State area (and our visitors!) can fill their calendars with fun and stimulating local trips and daycations without going very far.
So, stay tuned as I ramp up with an ongoing list of ways to explore the outer boroughs and take you along with me via my "Scoop" as well as my column here on Travelin' Cousins, Weekends are Better in The NYC Outer Boroughs with Elisa.
Speaking of embracing the outer boroughs...
Let's take a look at what's happening in the Belmont section of the Bronx, better known as Little Italy. With the continued focus on outdoor dining in NYC, The Belmont Business Improvement District (BID) in the Bronx, just launched “Piazza di Belmont” on Arthur Avenue. For those that love the "piazza" feel of Italy, where streets are closed off to vehicular traffic, and walking around freely is possible, Arthur Avenue is the place for you this summer!
For the first time ever and as part of New York City's reopening, each weekend evening this summer from Thursday to Sunday Bronx Little Italy has partnered with Sam Schwartz, former NYC Traffic Commissioner, to create their first-ever piazza-style dedicated al fresco dining plan between East 188th Street and Crescent Avenue.
"The plan incorporates health and safety protocols, six feet spacing between tables, signage for pedestrians, temporary street closures during the weekend evenings and more. Approved by the Department of Transportation, “Piazza di Belmont” creates a glorious, European-style outdoor dining experience," according to a recent press release from BID.
As huge Arthur Avenue fans, me and my gang made our way to the Bronx from Long Island last night to experience things first-hand. Since the street is closed to vehicular traffic Thursdays to Saturdays from 6 pm to 10 pm (and Sunday 1 pm to 9:30 pm), we wanted to get there a bit prior because I wasn't sure what to expect in the way of parking. There are municipal lots, however, we were lucky enough to find street parking less than a block away from Arthur Avenue and our destination restaurant, Enzo's of Arthur Avenue.
Bronx Little Italy’s neighborhood outdoor dining plan feature over 25 restaurants, eateries and local businesses, including Ann & Tony’s, Antonio’s Trattoria, Arthur Avenue Fiasco, Azgardz, Bronx Beer Hall, Café Nocciola, Cka Ka Qellu, Emilia’s Restaurant, Enzo’s of Arthur Avenue, Estrellita Poblana III, Gerbasi Ristorante, Gurra Café, Mario’s Restaurant, Mike’s Deli, Michaelangelo’s, Pasquale’s Rigoletto Restaurant, San Gennaro Restaurant, Tapas Italiano, Tino’s Deli, Zero Otto Nove, among others. Clearly, one can visit regularly this summer, getting a taste (no pun intended) of the variety of restaurants that make up this historic, multi-generational neighborhood.
And, while selecting a restaurant in "The Real Little Italy" is never easy because they are all so good, I had wanted to dine at Enzo's for quite some time. Not only because of their reputation for delectable food and their selection of homemade pasta options, but because of the amazing story behind the current owner, Maria di Rende.
As the mother of five school-aged daughters, (one of which is attending my alma mater, Fordham University in The Bronx!), Maria runs the successful restaurant that she and her husband opened in 2005. Named for her husband, Enzo, a graduate of Fordham University and the Culinary Institute of America, the restaurant first began as a café with 40 seats, and grew into one of the most popular restaurants on Arthur Avenue, seating up to 200 patrons. It is oftentimes listed on “where to dine” stories about Little Italy in the Bronx.
Both Maria and Enzo grew up the Belmont neighborhood of the Bronx, each coming from multi-generational families that owned local shops on Arthur Avenue, so they were well positioned for success, which they certainly enjoyed!
Sadly, tragedy hit the di Rende family when Enzo was diagnosed with prostate cancer and passed away at age 46 about two years ago. When Enzo passed, Maria and her family, along with the entire staff, promised to work together to continue their family’s original vision and make sure the restaurant would succeed.
As a single mom, Maria is not only a shining example of a successful small business owner, but a role model for women, and especially moms, of what is possible when one puts their heart, soul and hard work into their business.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Maria for a story I will be featuring in the next few weeks featuring a number of Arthur Avenue businesses and they are faring in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic, business closures and re-openings. Aside from her soft spoken demeanor and gracious manner, Maria is an inspiration for how she was able to get through such a personal tragedy and push forward successfully on both the home front and the work front.
My sit-down, however, did not include eating and of course, that was something that I was intent on doing at Enzo's! As a single mom and blogger, I try to bring my own teenage daughters with me on story excursions whenever possible and a trip to Arthur Avenue was not one I had to persuade them to do. My girls love everything about the Bronx Belmont neighborhood and the eating experience tops the list.
We had a new addition to our usual trio and our dinner at Enzo's last night - Gianna's boyfriend Tyler, who had never been to Little Italy.
The outdoor seating was very inviting and with the absence of cars driving by, it was quiet and calm. Wait staff, of course were donned with masks (which I'm sure is not the most comfortable way to take orders, wait on patrons and serve food, but they made it look easy with their extra friendly attitude and high level attention.
My crowd is a pasta crowd, so, while Enzo's menu is quite extensive and there were number of meat and seafood specials, we ordered pretty basic. But, let me assure you, there was nothing basic about the taste, flavor or preparation.
We ordered two appetizers after indulging in not one, but two baskets of bread. Enzo's olive bread is to die for!! So soft, fresh and the olives literally fall apart in your mouth. The Stuffed Artichoke was a culinary work of art to look at, filled with different textures and colors and Gianna devoured it. The kids also did a number on the Fried Calamari, served with tomato sauce. I was worried that they may not have room for their mains. But, that didn't happen!
Our order included: Spaghetti with Pesto Sauce, Spaghetti and Meatballs , Ravioli and for me (the group vegan), I had my all-time favorite Orrechiette with Broccoli Rabe. The original preparation includes sausage, which I asked them to omit.
It should be noted again, as per above, all of the pastas are homemade and oh, so good!!!
I'm going to let the photos speak for themselves! We were lucky that the weather cooperated for an evening of al fresco dining - a lovely breeze filled the air along with the aroma of the best Italian food in all of New York!!
Try to venture to Arthur Avenue for a delicious night of al fresco dining this summer!
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