Monthly Archives: December 2008

Arthur Avenue Italian Food Tour

Mother Nature has been giving us quite a whalloping lately. Fortunately, there was a break between storms which allowed me to take up an invitation to visit Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. This is where the Italian population moved to after they landed in Little Italy and were able to make enough money to get out of the tenements. I had been looking forward to making this trip very much, as I was hoping to get my hands on some fresh pasta and other specialties that I’d been missing since I lived in Italy, so I was glad that we could make it.

I was not disappointed at all. It was very much like being let loose in a candy-shop for an adult food lover. Brands and items that I hadn’t seen since I lived overseas were available. The aroma of the bakery we stopped at brought me back to Europe with piles of bread on the shelves and fresh-baked goods on display. Of course, I could not resist picking up some of the soft almond cookies and the pine nut cookies to take to my family for the holidays on our visit to Madonia Brothers Bakery (2348 Arthur Avenue).

We dropped by the Casa Della Mozzarella (604 East 187th Street) to pick up some freshly-made cheese. While on line waiting to place our orders, we were offered samples of some chocolate and hazelnut candy along with some Italian pop music. The real highlight of our trip, however, was to be Borgatti’s (632 East 187th Street) for some handmade pasta.

The line was long, but everyone was in great spirits. One counter was for the ravoli (cheese and meet) and the other was for the sheets of pasta cut to order in any size. This was a unique and very interesting experience. When I finally made it to the head of the line, having been prepped ahead of time, I asked for a pound each of the golden egg and the pine-green spinach pasta, cut to a tagliatelle. I’d picked up a box of the ravioli first. My family is going to be very spoiled this holiday.

The real treat, from my perspective was that I spotted some fresh cavatelli while we were on line. I haven’t seen this pasta very much in the United States and to find it freshly-made here was wonderful. The shape has a slit in the middle which is great for clinging whatever sauce is added to it. It is robust enough to take on a meaty ragu and delicate enough to handle the creamy zucchini sauce that I’d found tucked away in a cookbook and decided to try.

I’m definitely going to prepare a better list the next time I head up there so that I can make sure not to miss out on the other goodies that I can buy. This should keep me in good stead until I can get back to Italy again.

Buon appetito!

Magic Cookie Bars

You know those foods that come under the category of “things you ate at other people’s houses”? Well, Magic Cookie Bars fall into that group, as well as the group of “things that I ate at potlucks” and “things that my mother didn’t make.” These might have been a bit too much of off-the-back-of-every-bag-and-box type of cookie for her.

It was great to see that the recipe is listed in’s “Southern Food” category, being from that region myself. These fall into the domain of bar cookies, of which I am a big fan and with which I grew up: lemon bars, linzer bars, brownies, blondies, Rice Krispy treats, no-bake things, etc. They are quick and easy to make, transport well, and are usually a huge hit when served.

So, when I recently had these at an event back home, I realized that I should track down the recipe and add it to my collection. This co-incided nicely with the birthday party of one of my work colleagues and my annual holiday cookie baking bug. I think that they turned out looking pretty well.

They tasted even better, to boot. Topped with toasted coconut, studded with chocolate chips and pecans, sitting on a graham cracker bed, held together by condensed milk that turns into a caramel – really, what is there not to like!

Buon appetito!