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Tourists slurp up spaghetti in Manhattan’s historic Little Italy, but for authentic Italian atmosfera, New Yorkers have long headed up to storied Arthur Avenue in The Bronx.
Today, however, Italians rule The Bronx’s Little Italy no more. Just as Manhattan’s Little Italy gave way to Chinatown and gentrification, The Bronx’s answer to red-sauce rapture is now much more diverse.
“When you walked down the streets, all you heard was Italian, and immigrants were still moving here from Italy,” Frank Franz, 67, told The Post of his childhood in the community.
A historian and co-founder of the Belmont Business Improvement District — which promotes Little Italy businesses spanning Arthur and Crescent Avenues, along with 187th Street – Franz said that the monoculture began to change back in the 1970s with the arrival of Albanian immigrants. But, he added that the biggest shift in the neighborhood happened in just the last decade. Increasingly, peoples of Asian, Latin and African-American descent call the borough’s Little Italy home.
“Of course, old timers like me reminisce about how it used to be, but we recognize that things can’t be the same forever,” Franz said of the thousands of Italians still living in the community.
And while Italian bakeries, butchers and cheese shops are still open and thriving here, the area’s newest restaurants now boast a variety of cuisines.
Here are five restaurants that are part of the new wave of old Little Italy — all of which have comfortable setups for outdoor dining.
2356 Arthur Ave.; 718-220-2526
606 E. 187th St.; 347-271-6720
2421 Arthur Ave.; 347-270-3052
601 E. 189th St.; 718-220-6400
The new old school
Occupying the space that belonged once the legendary Palombo Bakery, Luna Cafe opened five years ago, specializing in Albanian desserts and delicacies.
“We wanted to have a vibe that we have at cafes back home in Albania where the atmosphere is lively, and the food and drinks are delicious,” Luna Cafe co-owner Amy Demaj said.
She added that everything is made in-house from the qevapa (a dish of grilled beef sausages) to the pasul (a hearty kidney bean stew).
But Luna is perhaps best know for it’s sugary sweet desserts like the tollumba, a fried dough soaked in syrup, and an Albanian version of baklava with walnuts. They also serve up Italian and French specialties like brick oven pizza, airy ricotta cheesecake and Napoleons bursting with assorted berries.
Round out your visit in Luna’s sprawling European cafe-style outdoor space with a traditional peach fruit drink (served thick) or an extra-strong Turkish coffee.
601 E, 187 St.; 917-473-7399
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