Some people go to the beach or find a cabin in the woods, break out their fishing pole and a good book to unwind from life. While I have no objection to any of these ideas, when life gets too much for me, I’m in need of a great slice a pizza or homemade pasta, a cappuccino and the city life. There is only one place that offers me this with tranquility. The place is Arthur Ave. in the Bronx.
I hop in my car, take Pelham Parkway, get off the Fordham exit and I’m there. I sit in my car for a moment, take a deep breath inhaling the city life of Italian food, its culture and the feeling of being in a place this country girl never thought she’d be.
Twenty years ago I never thought I’d be comfortable enough to go into the city alone, especially a well-known place like the Bronx. But I’ve come to understand its culture. Sure, there are areas I still wouldn’t travel but in the Belmont section I feel safe and able to be myself.
I venture down streets going into the shops filled with crystal gifts and figurines. For the most delicious bread I’ve ever tasted I’ll go to Terranova bakery and get a few loaves. I’ve been known to freeze a few. Depending on my mood I’ll go to Full Moon for a slice of pizza or I’ll go to my favorite restaurant Roberto’s and order an eggplant appetizer. It is to die for. There are only male waiters who appear to be very attractive, though it could be the Italian accent, that wait on you. When the appetizer comes out they use a huge spoon and fork, cut it in two using only one hand and scoop it onto my plate. The cheese oozes everywhere, the smell is decadent and the taste is out of this world. If I’m lucky on their special of the day board they’ll have seafood risotto. Between the risotto, wine and eggplant I’m usually feeling like a whole new person but my trip isn’t over yet.
I head to what has become my place of sanctuary. A cafe called Palumbo. I don’t usually drink espresso but when I go to the Bronx I have to have at least one. It isn’t just about the cappuccino and the pastries. The pastries while they are very good at Palumbo, aren’t my favorite, but I always have at least one. For me this place is about the atmosphere, the synergy. When I enter I see a group of gentlemen in the corner drinking espresso with suits on, talking about things I definitely don’t want to know about. A group of girls will be sitting at another table speaking in a foreign language. Almost everyone will be speaking Italian except me and the tourists that have come to visit. You can always spot them. The clothes aren’t quite right, the cameras are at the ready and they are always way too happy and polite. Here I can sit back in my chair and say nothing. I’ve often thought about finding a place in the area and coming here as a daily visit. I’ve been known to drive over an hour in the morning to Palumbo just for a croissant with raspberry jam spread on top. This is the place when the time is right, I want to come and write my book. Not about New York, Arthur Ave. or the next Goodfella’s, no just a book. Every writer has their place and this is mine.
When it’s time to go I take one more stroll through the streets heading to my favorite pastry shops. I have a few. I take home a small cheesecake to eat on my ride back to wherever I have come from.