Arthur Avenue is a street in the Belmont section of the Bronx, New York City’s northernmost borough. It was once the heart of the Bronx’s “Little Italy”. “Little Italy” generally refers to Arthur Avenue and East 187th Street. Although the historical and commercial center of Little Italy is Arthur Avenue itself, the area stretches across East 187th Street from Arthur Avenue to Prospect Avenue, and is similarly lined with delis, bakeries, cafes and various Italian merchants. Unlike the Little Italy neighborhood in Manhattan, which has become commercialized as a major tourist destination, the Bronx’s Little Italy is considered The real Little Italy due to its Italian immigrant heritage which dates back to the 1950s. Arthur Avenue and Morris Park are viewed as the Bronx’s primary Italian American communities. Other Italian American communities in the Bronx are the middle and upper class neighborhoods of Schuylerville and Country Club. The avenue itself is named for former U.S. president Chester A. Arthur.
Robert De Niro’s directing debut A Bronx Tale takes place in the vicinity of Belmont. However, it was largely filmed in Astoria, Queens. The series Third Watch was based on Arthur Avenue initially, with the first episode referring to the firehouse as “Camelot,” based on its location at the intersection of King Street and Arthur Avenue. The 1973 film “The Seven-Ups” starring Roy Scheider was filmed on Arthur Avenue and Hoffman Street. In 2003, a scene from the HBO hit series The Sopranos was shot in Mario’s Restaurant.
Leonard of James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces grew up in this area. Much of the novel Underworld takes place near Arthur Avenue. The author himself, Don DeLillo, grew up there.
The opening scene of the 1955 film, Marty shows Arthur Avenue. The film’s main character, Marty Piletti, works at a meat market on Arthur Avenue, and in the movie he considers buying it from its owner.
Early scenes in the mid-1960s film, The Incident take place on 183rd Street and Third Avenue and in the Third Avenue El station (once the primary El station for Arthur Avenue). The scenes, featuring Martin Sheen and Tony Musante, involve the mugging of a pedestrian. The Belmont station filled in for one on the Jerome Avenue El line, which is the line that forms the film’s narrative.
The 1950s doo-wop music group called Dion and the Belmonts originated in this area, named after Belmont Avenue. Italian rock band Elio e le Storie Tese at the end of their song “Gargaroz” in studio album “Studentessi” featured a mock advertising of a food shop in Arthur Avenue, in Italian language with some strange Americanisms.
A reality TV show called Mama’s Boys of the Bronx was about grown men living on and around Arthur Avenue in the Bronx with their mothers.
Lady Gaga’s music video for “Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)” takes place in and around Arthur Avenue/Little Italy.
In 2016, Arthur Avenue was named one of “America’s Greatest Streets” by the American Planning Association.
The real Little Italy of New York?
For decades, the Little Italy of the Bronx has remained somewhat hidden, obscured by the popularity of Little Italy in Manhattan; in recent years, however, it has started to claim a spot on the list of New York’s most interesting locations. Even though many of the original residents left the neighborhood in the 1970s and 80s, the Italian character of the streets and shops has stayed authentic, perhaps right thanks to its isolation. The food products, from the cheese to the cold cuts to the olive oil, are often imported from Italy, and the business owners are proud Italian Americans.
“Bronx Little Italy is dubbed by many as the ‘real little Italy’ simply because of its authenticity,” says Alyssa Tucker, the assistant director at the Belmont Business Improvement District (BID), the organization established to promote the community, its businesses and traditions. “Many of the businesses here have been around for nearly 100 years or more and are still owned by descendants of their original founders. The bakeries, pastry shops and cheese shops make their fresh homemade products daily as it has always been done. Customers and visitors enjoy the friendly small town atmosphere compared to the Manhattan publicity spotlight.”