There won’t be ornate Baroque fountains or towering obelisks, but if Little Italy in the Bronx has its way, mom-and-pop businesses along Arthur Avenue will recreate their own piazza for outdoor dining on weekends.
The Belmont Business Improvement District is currently in talks with the Department of Transportation to approve closing a nearly three-block stretch of Arthur Avenue between East 188th Street and Crescent Avenue from Thursdays through Sundays (6-10pm except for 1-9:30pm on Sundays). There are 26 eateries—from red-sauce restaurants to delis—that would be able to set up more seating as they look to recoup lost business in the past few months. Across the five boroughs, this could be more common as the city strives to close a total of 100 miles of streets as part of its Open Streets plan, including certain blocks dedicated to restaurants and bars.
Businesses are still expected to keep tables six-feet apart and mind public health protocols—it’s not meant to be a street festival like the Feast of Gennaro, after all. In recent weeks, eager New Yorkers have crowded sidewalks and streets as they attempt to resume life pre-lockdown. In some cases, officials have warned the public and businesses to mind safety measures or risk the government delaying the city’s reopening plan.
Since Phase 2 of opening started yesterday, Maria Di Rende, the owner of Enzo’s of Arthur Avenue, has put outdoor tables on the sidewalks for the first time since opening her restaurant in 2005. While she stayed open for takeout the past few months, now customers can enjoy meatballs, fried calamari and fresh pastas al fresco.
“It’s an extra romantic feeling,” Di Rende says. “It’s not Italy, but it’s our idea of being Little Italy as a whole.”
A Bronx native, Di Rende took a vacation to Italy last summer and recalls how outdoor dining was the norm.
“We had our lunches and dinners outside like everyone else,” Di Rende says. “I’m completely embracing this idea. I think it’s fitting for the whole neighborhood.”
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