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Belmont is the Bronx's very own Little Italy. This close-knit community thrives on the enthusiasm of its businesses and the supportve relationships that have developed among retail and restaurant owners, respectively. Arthur Avenue is lined with bakeries and butcher shops, while East 187th Street is marked by the smell of pastries and the sound of church bells. But regardless of what type of establishment they walk into, residents feel immediately at home as genial proprietors welcome them like family, whether they're first-time customers or lifelong regulars.
Sam Zimmer, Fordham University student
"The main bartender's name [at Mug-Z's] is Suits. Everyone knows him as Suits. It can get pretty crowded, but on off nights it's great. It's Fordham's main bar, I would say."
Mug-Z's, 2476 Arthur Ave at 189th St (718-364-8238)
"Howl at the Moon has a bigger cover charge than Mug-Z's on the busy nights. There will be less people or older people, so I like that. But I wouldn't call it quieter. They've got awesome burgers and fake plastic palm trees inside."
Howl at the Moon, 585 E 189th St between Arthur Ave and Hoffman St (718-561-7694)
Marlon Feld, software development firm executive
"I generally start over at Mike's Deli. They have a fantastic vegetarian sandwich, called the Garden of Eden. I'm not a strict vegetarian; I don't eat red meat. The stereotype is that you have to eat meat to enjoy food [here], and that's just not the case. It's a big sandwich on a roll, with eggplant, roasted peppers, onions, smoked mozzarella."
Mike's Deli, 2344 Arthur Ave between Crescent Ave and E 186th St (718-295-5033, arthuravenue.com)
"The provolone bread [at Madonia Brothers Bakery] is exactly what it sounds like. It is bread with provolone baked into it. Basically, you buy one to take home and then rip into it, you consume it, and have nothing to take home. It's rich and chewy. I feel like I'm writing PR text. It sounds horribly stereotypical but that's exactly what it tastes like."
Madonia Brothers Bakery, 2348 Arthur Ave between Crescent Ave and E 186th St (718-295-5573)
Vincent Borgese, owner, B&G Clothes
"The difference with [B&G Clothes] is we're really a service-oriented business. If you bought a suit from me and you came back and said, 'Vinnie, I gained a little bit of weight, I lost a little bit of weight,' we would take care of that for you and not charge you. I've had customers come in here with suits that are 30 and 35 years old and we've still done that for them."
B&G Clothes, 586 E 187th St between Arthur Ave and Hoffman St (718-367-5508, bgclothes.com)
"Trattoria Tra di Noi is really a sleeper. It's a small restaurant across the street from Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church. The buzz on the chef there is that he was the chef for Sophia Loren."
Trattoria Tra di Noi, 622 E 187th St at Hughes Ave (718-295-1784)
"Ivana Pizzeria does pizza and specialty dishes, and their pizza is very good. They'll make whatever you want. They started making one for us—we get it every Saturday now—and it's like a Margherita pizza and is very, very thin, with just the fresh mozzarella and the basil."
Ivana Pizzeria, 2373 Arthur Ave between 186th and 187th Sts (718-365-4322)
Jerome Raguso, owner, Gino's Pastry Shop
"We're very well known for our cheesecake; we just use fresh ricotta, sugar and fresh eggs. The secret is the whole-milk ricotta. We're very particular about the cheese for our cannoli; it's called impastata. We're also very well known for our wedding cakes. I got a beautiful card from a bride, saying how she felt at home with us and felt special."
Gino's Pastry Shop, 580 E 187th St between Arthur Ave and Hoffman St (718-584-3558)
"When you go to Dominick's, be prepared to walk out sending more Christmas cards than you regularly do. You walk in as a stranger, and you leave as family."
Dominick's, 2335 Arthur Ave between Crescent Ave and E 187th St (718-733-2807)