Unfortunately the pictures are on film and I don't have a scanner in the US right now, so no pics, but here's my story.
I lived in Bensonhurst for the longest time so I never felt a need to head to Arthur Ave and I frequently thought of it as just another fake Little Italy. If I could stroll down to 18th Ave for pretty much everything, then why become a permanent fixture in a D train seat on a ride that would be so long that I might actually die before I reached my destination. All in all, didn't seem too appealing.
Well now I live in Woodside...
Made the drive out to Arthur Ave quite early yesterday and arrived there around noon to a relatively empty market and quiet streets. The overall appearance was in itself a relief compared to what my worst fears conjured up (think Little Italy.) Armed with my trusty list of places on a sheet of paper towel (one of those "Where the hell did all that Staples paper go?" post-move days.) First stop was the market just to give myself some bearing on the area. A quick browse was interesting enough, but I didn't really get into much until I started talking to some people. For one, I was pleasantly surprised to find most people speaking Italian and not just Italian, but dialects. Pretty much any conversation I heard was in Sicilianu, Nnapulitanu, or Calabrese. That was a big plus! My fears was dispelled a bit more. The market itself is tiny (I'm comparing it to London markets like Brixton though so it's not a fair comparison) but it had some good stuff. The store on the far left from the Arthur Ave entrance has a great array of Sicilian (she Nap though) items that I usually have trouble finding and they have VERY high quality pine nuts. The prices are not low though. They had capers in salt too! I found Cafe del Mercato to be a bit pricey so I didn't end up getting what I planned and instead travelled around snacking on samples more or less. I left the market itself with a cleaver, some Sicilian olive oil, blackcurrants, etc. The produce didn't look that great for the prices in there. Cosenza's fish market was excellent and I did get a screamingly fresh bronzini there. I also greatly enjoyed the outdoor seafood bar where I had a few oysters. My only complaint is that both the triglie and sardines looked terrible and this was still early in the day. I can get either one super fresh at any given time near 86th St back in Brooklyn from my favorite fishmarket in NY (the only one I like better is in Comogli.) Teitel's had a great selection, but was not as amazing as many seem to make it out to be. It just seemed like a normal enough store with only an OK olive selection. Calanda Cheese down Arthur Ave has glorious mozzarella and basket cheese. I think I actually liked the basket cheese better! Back up a bit at Calabria Pork Store I tried a bunch of their salami and soppresatte before settling on one of the original free sample ones. They had two samples out, a smaller and rounder one which was quite good and a longer one which was really something special. The fact that they don't slice it is my only complaint so it's 11 dollar stick or nothing basically. Walking back to the car we got bread at Madonia as well as two excellent cannoli. An iced coffee bought by my companion at DeLillo along with a sfogliatelle (average sfogliatelle) was pretty good. Our final stop was Borgatti's which has a great atmosphere and EXCELLENT prices (especially given how high they are at some places in the nabe.)
In the end the fruits of my trip have or are leading to... salt crusted bronzini, caponata, pasta con le sarde, a ragu with broccoli rabe sausage and a chunk of lamb and some pork belly cooked in it, fried chicken cutlets, a large batch of my world famous anchovies ;), and I think that's about it.
All in all I'd definitely make it a regular trip. The $5 toll is a shame.
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