This past weekend, Elana, Mom ("Marmo"), and I traveled to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx to get a full day's worth of Italian culinary glory. (The mural above of JC and what I believe to be a deceased local man greeted us as we parked our car in the town lot.) For those unaware, the Bronx has a "Little Italy" section of its own, which is superior to the one in Manhattan in most respects. For starters, this Little Italy has, wouldn't you know it, an actual Italian population. It's not uncommon for the native language to be spoken in and around Arthur Ave by its inhabitants, which only reinforces the authentic feel of area. Although it still caters to tourists with the occasional cheesy t-shirt store and gimmicky gift shops, it's not an overwhelmingly commercialized cavone scene like in Manhattan. And the culinary landscape, with its impressive selection of delicatessens, bakeries, markets and butcher shops, is a bit more bona fide as well.
One of the first stops for this Super Saturday was Casa Della Mozzarella, an Italian deli located just off Arthur Avenue on 604 East 187th Street. Truth be told, I had not been to this place before, and was directed by some credible sources, including Marmo herself.
The deli itself is an extremely narrow, tight space. Really tight actually. And seemingly crowded, too. Even from the back of the line, behind the semi-solid wall of hanging meats and cheeses, I hear one of the guys behind the counter shout "you customers all look the same to me!" - Which is greeted with a roar of laughter from the customers. Even though there is a decent wait, no one is angry or in a rush. Understanding customers realize that good things can take time.
On my way towards the front of the line, I'm impressed with the neatly organized cans of sauce, jarred truffles, and packaged pasta which line the walls, seemingly inches away from my face. With its Christmas decorations, Italian music, and protruding display counter, it's like I had been placed in a cozy wonderland of Italian delicatessen decor.
All of the staff is in uniform: white chef coats, and blue azzuri hats. There is a quiet, smooth professionalism to the whole operation. All of the men are working; some taking orders, others slicing meats - but there is no rush or haste. All orders are receiving the requisite amount of care.
I really just wanted to sample all of the aged provolone and salami in the joint, but I needed to pace myself. This was one of the first stops of the day, and my stomach could only expand so much. So Elana and I make the decision to just try their homemade mozzarella, which is a fair compromise I think. I mean, if you're going to just have one item from an Italian deli, why not make it the deli's own fresh mozzarella.Casa's actual Mozzarella is outstanding. We opted for the salted mozzarella (seen above) which we got free samples of first. Even cold, it was extremely soft, slightly stretchy, with a tangy, slithery, milky quality to it. The salt levels are perfect. After our sample, I immediately order one pound to take home, which I subsequently devoured in its entirety (not kidding) at around 5:30 a.m. on Sunday morning after a late night dance party at a friend's apartment. Nice and light, late night snack. Pretty gross to picture that, right? Except it wasn't gross. It was goddamn glorious. And I could have had more. It was even perhaps better than Ben and Jerry's chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream (pints of which I have also cleared out in a single, non stop sitting).
Based on that mozzarella, (and the long line), I'm willing to confidently bet that the rest of the deli is amazing, too. Stop #1 = a success. Casa Della gets a big thumbs up.