Italian-style piazza dining is coming back to the Bronx's Arthur Avenue this month, offering a car-free dining experience on the weekends.
Starting April 30, East 188th Street to Crescent Avenue will be closed to traffic from 6-10pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and 1-9pm on Sunday so that diners and shoppers can take full advantage of the street.
There are at least 26 eateries—from red-sauce restaurants to delis—that will set up seating for patrons, ready to chow down. And hopefully, with more of us vaccinated, these eateries are able to recoup some business they've lost over the last year.
"While the pandemic has devastated our city, borough, and neighborhood, we are hopeful for the future with the ongoing vaccinations, lifting restrictions, and the re-launch of Piazza di Belmont, which has become popular with our guests and allows more visitors to dine outdoors during the warmer months," said Peter Madonia, Chairman of the Belmont BID. "Many of the small businesses in Bronx Little Italy are owned and operated by the same families who founded them over a century ago – some of which have already been through the 1918 pandemic. Piazza di Belmont will help to support many of these family-operated restaurants on weekend evenings, while the streets will remain open during normal business hours throughout the week to support our essential and retail businesses."
The "piazza" is part of NYC's Open Streets plan that closes certain blocks for restaurants and bars and to simply provide more open space for New Yorkers. Last fall, NYC made Open Streets permanent and there are currently more than 11,330 restaurants participating in the program. Of those, 350 operate on Open Streets, according to 6sqft.com.
Of course, 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.
That being said, the piazza does evoke a certain Italian feel, according to business owners. Last year, Maria Di Rende, the owner of Enzo’s of Arthur Avenue, told us "it’s an extra romantic feeling."
"It’s not Italy, but it’s our idea of being Little Italy as a whole," she said, noting how outdoor dining was the norm in Italy when she visited last. "We had our lunches and dinners outside like everyone else. I’m completely embracing this idea. I think it’s fitting for the whole neighborhood.”
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