Hi! We're going to start today in the Bedford Park area of the Bronx, and we'll end in Belmont. I'm about to take you to the New York Botanical Garden. And from there I'm going to take you to Little Italy on Arthur Avenue. So let's start!
New York Botanical Garden: Acres of gardens, plains, and forests
Howl At The Moon: Good beer and college town football vibes
Luna Cafe: Albanian fare with the best french vanilla coffee
Marie's Fresh Coffee and Gifts: Italian roasted coffee by the pound
Blue Mediterranean Restaurant: The friendliest chef you'll ever meet
Zero Otto Nove: Not your standard white tablecloths and muted lighting
Madonia's: The lines for their crusty Italian bread are so worth it
Bronx Beer Garden: Nestled between mom and pop produce vendors
Mike's Deli: The original Italian-American deli
Egidio's: The best desserts, with free tastings
GROWING UP IN THE BRONX
I've actually lived here, in this neighborhood, since I was 13. My mom lives a block away (laughs). My favorite thing about Bedford Park is how peaceful it can be. Honestly, it's a great escape from the city, it's very full of families, and it's so easy to walk around.
What's really great is that by living here so long, you really get to know the different generations. Our school crossing guard, who used to help us on our way to school, is still around (laughs). She retired recently. And now her daughter has taken over her corner. When I see her daughter I say "Hi" and she knows who I am because her mother used to help me cross the street (laughs).
THE BOTANICAL GARDEN
Now we’re on Bedford Park Avenue, and the New York Botanical Garden is straight ahead. My senior year the nuns let us leave campus to get lunch on our own. Our lunch spot was Rocco's Pizza Shop, which is still around. If you go inside they have all these old photos of girls in their Ursula uniforms eating lunch (laughs). So its a very Ursula-oriented pizza shop. Plus, the pizza is very good.
When its warmer i like to come the Garden twice a week. I'm a member and I love being around nature, I find it to be quite healing. I love to just go in there and and walk through through the forests, walk around the plants and flowers. And they also have great exhibit, like their yearly Orchid Show in the Lush Observatory.
FOREST BATHING FOR WELLNESS
I really love is forest bathing. Have you ever heard of that? Forest bathing was coined in Japan in the 1980's I think and it literally means to immerse yourself in a forest atmosphere. It's a stress reduction technique. All you do is walk around nature, sit on grass, use all your senses... smell the trees, listen to the birds chirp. Its very healthy for you.
CAMPING IN THE 70'S
Back in the 70’s, when things were a little more open, you could go into the Botanical Garden and camp. I have really fond memories of my mom telling me stories about how she would camp there. You can't do that anymore (laughs). I don't know if they broke in or not (laughs) but one night they just decided to camp out there. You definitely could not do that anymore - nope!
Belmont is so diverse, there are Eastern European residents, people from the Dominican Republican, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. Little Italy has turned into a college neighborhood as well. It's nice that younger students are supporting local businesses in the community. I love that Little Italy has kept its traditions going for over a century. The restaurant's were going to see have been in families for generations.
We're walking by the Bronx Zoo now. I highly recommend taking a day trip, did you know they have zip lining now?
A BRONX TALE
Let's take a right so we're on East Fordham Road. There's my favorite mural of Chazz Palminteri, he's a Bronx actor who starred in Robert DeNiro's A Bronx Tale, a coming of age story about a boy growing up in the Bronx in 60's. Growing up it was one of our favorite movies because we didn't see a lot of Bronx representation in film. We're very proud of Chazz in the neighborhood.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL VIBES
Now we're on Arthur Avenue! These restaurants are all known for their sausage, breads, and cheeses. But first, Howl At The Moon is a really cool Fordham pub where I watch football games with my friends. Across the street is Tino's Delicatessen, such a great spot for coffee and fresh cheese. My favorite things (laughs).
Luna Cafe is great for Albanian food, and they have an amazing french vanilla coffee. If you want something quick I'd recommend pizza at Full Moon Pizzeria. And for fresh roasted and ground coffee beans, straight from Italy, you need to go to Marie's Fresh Coffee and Gifts.
THE PERFECT NOT-SO-SECRET RECIPE
I want to talk to you about the Blue Mediterranean Restaurant. This restaurant has an open kitchen, marble counter tops. You feel like you're in Italy or Greece. They’re known for their seafood, their fish is so fresh and delicious. I came here once with our friends, and we were just basking in this sauce. It was a red sauce served with oysters, and we were just gushing over it. The owner and chef came out, and I think he was really enjoying us enjoying the food because he gave us the recipe! He went into such detail about how to make it, it was beautiful.
Across the street is Zero Otto Nove, they have a really unique and lovely ambiance, you feel like you're in a stone outdoor garden. They have fabulous wine, its also really family oriented. But you need a reservation. This is not a place you can just walk in.
IT'S RED SAUCE, NOT TOMATO SAUCE
Enzo's red sauce pasta is the heart of Arthur Avenue. It's right by Mario's, which has been here since 1927. I really recommend both. It's hard when you come here (laughs) because I want to go to all the restaurants. Oh my gosh, looks at this bread! Madonia's has the best crusty Italian bread.
BEER, CHEESE, BREAD. REPEAT.
This is the Arthur Avenue Retail Market. It's so big. I've been coming here since i was a child. Inside is the Bronx Beer Garden and also a bunch of small vendors with fresh produce and different types of food. When you enter they have cigar making and it smells really good (laughs). There’s just a ton of history here. This is Mike's Deli. Mike was so handsome back in the day (laughs). This is where you get the pastas, the meats, the imported cheeses. It's all very old school, it's all very Italy.
THE PERFECT TREAT
And this is Egidio's. I'm so fond of this bakery. Every year my mom gets my twin sister and I our birthday cakes from here. I get the chocolate cake, it's the best. It's rich and moist with just a little bit of coconut flakes. My sister gets the strawberry shortcake. If you come, get the napoleons and try their cappuccino.
I was raised Catholic, so we would go to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church which is a famous church in the Bronx. You can follow the priest on twitter (laughs). Between the services you can peek in and see the beautiful murals and stained glass inside.
I just love the sense of community I get when I'm on Arthur Avenue. I come from a Puerto Rican background, and being immersed in a different culture was so nice as a kid. I feel like a local because I go to the places that are familiar to me, but there are so many new restaurants to still experience. I need to keep up! But its so nice to have a memento from the old days.
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