Arthur Avenue. The creme de la creme when it comes to Italian cuisine in New York City. Unlike the “Little Italy” of Manhattan, which is constantly crawling with tourists and you can probably get better Italian food else where on the Island, Arthur Avenue in the Bronx has been untouched by the hype. It has been known for years as the place to venture to for authentic Italian food and I was so excited to finally get a chance to explore.
I had met my Mom for a beautiful, sunny October day at the New York Botanical Gardens. They have a gorgeous Monet exhibit there, recreating his entire garden at Giverny.
After walking around for hours, our stomachs began to grumble and we knew exactly where to go. We walked from the exhibit to Arthur Avenue, which reminds me of an Italian town transported into the Bronx.
Every place looked better then the last, leaving us with the ultimate decision of deciding where to go. We both discussed the fear of picking the wrong spot and regretting it for the rest of the day. I had seen Mike’s Deli on Throwdown with Bobby Flay, creating the best Eggplant Parmesan. We entered the Food Hall, to find Mike’s was closed.*
Inside, we met a friendly, local, pure-bred Italian guy, watching the football game who could tell the two of us were out-of-place. He explained that Mike’s and most restaurants were closed on Sunday. He seemed like the Arthur Avenue expert, so we asked him for a recommendation.
“Try Enzo’s,” he said in a thick accent, “Best Meatballs in the tri-state area. I eat there 3 times a week, that’s how I got so fat.”
With a suggestion like that, we knew we couldn’t go wrong. We walked right across the street to Enzo’s. From the moment we entered, we knew this was exactly what we were looking for.
We sat down towards the back of the restaurant at a table covered by a white table cloth. The bus boy immediately brought a basket of olive bread. My mom, an olive hater, looked on in dismay as I dug into the salty, sweet bread, which I dipped into the olive oil, already placed on the table.
The young waiter, with a thick Italian/Bronx accent, read off the list of specials as we tried to decide what to order. We decided to start with a glass of Chianti, traditional Italian red wine, while we looked over the amazing menu. A bunch of the specials stood out to us, and we ultimately decided to start with the hot antipasto; a combination of some of the best starters on their menu.
This was the perfect sampling of Italy. The mushrooms were overflowing with a rich stuffing, topped with a homemade tomato sauce. We squeezed fresh lemon juice on top, for a little bite of acidity, cutting through the richness of the stuffing. I ate the baked clams right out of their shell, keeping all the juices inside, enjoying each one. The fresh, lightly baked shrimp were delicious, as well. Finally, the eggplant rollatini, a favorite of mine, was overflowing with fresh ricotta and mozzarella cheese. The thin, cooked eggplant was delicious, containing all of the wonderfully decadent cheeses inside. This is the way to start an Italian feast.
My mom and I debated between the rigatoni bolognese and the chicken special. The waiter told us we could have a half order of the rigatoni and the problem was solved.
This chicken dish was one of the best I have ever had. I don’t usually order or enjoy chicken, but I would order this every single time. The chicken was moist and flavorful from sitting in the delicious broth. The broccoli rabe was piled high and soaking up all of the flavors from the other ingredients, which added a sweet freshness to the chicken. The pieces of prosciutto gave a hearty, saltiness to the chicken. All of these components were held together by the melted mozzarella on top. The cheese didn’t over power the chicken, but instead enhanced the flavor in a such a light, necessary way. The dish was absolutely wonderful. If you and in the Bronx at Enzo’s and they have this special, do yourself a favor and order it. I promise, you will smile ear to ear while devouring this dish.
The rigatoni was delicious as well. Fresh pasta and a homemade meat sauce combined together in one harmonious dish. There was no need to add parmesan to the dish, it was balanced and rich enough as is. The meat sauce wasn’t overflowing, allowing for the perfect combination of pasta and sauce. This was a great pasta dish.
We left Enzo’s completely full and unbelievable satisfied. The prices were extremely reasonable for all of the food and quality of the meal. The ideal first trip to Arthur Avenue.
My mom and I ventured back across the street to thank our new friend for his recommendation. He told us next time to order the meatballs and then with a smile said,
“Welcome to the Bronx, now get outta here.”
Enzo’s – 2339 Arthur Avenue – Bronx, NY
*Note: a majority of deli’s, stores, and some restaurants are closed on Sunday on Arthur Avenue. If you want the real taste of everything, try coming on a Saturday.
Location: Bronx, NY
Perfect For: Authentic Dining, Borough Exploration, Big Groups
Reservations: Not Accepted
Favorite Dishes: Baked Clams, Eggplant Rollatini, Rigatoni Bognese