If an Italian American experience which replicas a scene from the Godfather is what you’re after you can’t wrong with Arthur Avenue. There is a concentration of genuine Italian American family run restaurants which are still owned by the families who founded them thirty – forty years ago. Arthur Avenue in the Belmont area of the Bronx appears in the original Godfather books. Francis Ford Coppola filmed scenes in some of these restaurants. The Sopranos also filmed here and the area is frequently referenced in the series.
Mario’s is a reasonably priced and unpretentious restaurant. A friend who recommended Mario’s said she once sat next to Tony Bennet in this place. Tony Bennet. Apparently he was eating spaghetti with a napkin tucked into his collar… the most Italian-American – New-York thing I think anyone has ever done. I don’t really enjoy Italian American food, too much cheese and garlic, but it’s the setting and the experience you can’t get anywhere else which make it worth the trek.
The Bronx is also home to the excellent (although expensive $25!) New York Botanical Garden which is a ten minute walk from Arthur Avenue. There is also the Bronx Zoo which I hear is good and the Yankee Stadium close by. You can easily spend a whole day in this borough of New York. The Bronx is also one of the most dangerous parts of the city. I did feel like breaking into a run at certain points and I probably wouldn’t stay too late after dark. This only adds to the feeling you are visiting pre-Juliani’s New York clean up which I think is worth a visit.