O happy day… on Arthur Avenue, the Little Italy of the Bronx. Where a gentleman at a piano entertained us with Danny Boy, asking only a dollar (we gave him two).
And where an Italian Mickey outside a grocery store had a few hours of peace and quiet, since all the children were still in school.
Everyone is a connoisseur on Arthur Avenue. In the butcher shop, where they also stock some cheese, the main man walked around to the display with me to explain that the Pecorino the store had was made from sheep’s milk, yes, but the peppercorns with which it was studded made it unacceptable for use in a salad of fava beans. In other words, he dissuaded me from buying something at his store.
I didn’t ask him about the heads in the window.
Whether they belonged to sheep or goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left, will the Son of the Lord — at least so it says in Matthew. But here, it didn’t matter. We were there for a pig. Gil explained exactly how he planned to roast it.
And the butcher acceded to our request to buy it.
Hey, you like bacon, don’t you? Say hello.
Down the street, at Teitel Bros., in business since 1915, where the butcher recommended we go for cheese, we found a Star of David in mosaic at the entrance. Austrian, Yiddish-speaking immigrants Jacob and Morris Teitel opened the place, which is now an institution.
The latest generation of Teitels wanted every detail about the pig roast. On the Weber grill? No kidding. Just turn it over, said Gil. Hmn, you don’t say. He took out the Pecorina Toscano. No problem. He knew everything about everything already.
In the nearby arcade, many of the businesses have been around forever, and they too know exactly what they’re doing. Fantastic, Old-World vegetable vendors.
Everything larger than life. The Romano cheese. The picture can’t do justice to its girth.
Extra, extra long pasta. Really, only Gargantua could wind these around a fork.
Especially the bulbous fennel.
All the guys, the uniformed guys, the ones with badges, pick up their food there. They’ve got our backs. But here I’ve got at least one of theirs.
At Mike’s Deli, which sounds like the ordinary place on the corner but is anything but, we got a sandwich of aged provolone, soppressatta, sweet and hot peppers. A little bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. An angel made it for us. An angel connoisseur. Sicilian olive oil, the best for salads, he said, with certainty.
We took our paper plate to a wooden table nearby where we had a good view of people buying lamb shanks and two-inch thick steaks.
Good, I said, my mouth full.
I don’t think that quite describes it, said Gil. Thirty seconds and the sandwich was gone.
Time to go roast a pig.