Arguably, the most authentic Italian-American neighborhood in the country is The Bronx’s famous Arthur Avenue neighborhood. There are many speciality stores and restaurants that have been owned by the same families for over 100 years. Many of us do not live in close proximity to The Bronx so the way to bring the flavors of Arthur Avenue home is to purchase gift baskets from some of the local businesses like Mike’s Deli which is inside of the legendary Arthur Avenue Retail Market. (I suggest that you add the Retail Market to your bucket list even if you live thousands of miles away!)
Mike’s Deli (AKA The Arthur Avenue Deli) is one of the aforementioned old family businesses where the people behind the counter really know their goods and make it a point get to know their customers—so you just know that when they put together a gift basket, it is going to be good! The baskets range in price from $24 to $250 and I can assure you that you really get your money’s worth and that all of them are customizable. I tested two for myself recently that run about $100 each and I am thinking of purchasing more in the near future and sending them out as holiday gifts!The first one you can simply refer to as the “Custom $100 Gift Basket” when ordering. What sets Mike’s Deli’s baskets apart from any others you can get (including those from Manhattan’s posh gourmet stores) is that they have their own private label products. Most of Mike’s Deli’s baskets include their house brand olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Their jarred tomato sauce of choice is the self-owned Greco’s Fra Diavolo Sauce but you can ask for a milder version. This basket was made for my particular tastes and my motto is “the hotter, the better!” So in a nutshell, I have been thoroughly enjoying this more savory than sweet basket which consists of large size bottles of Mike’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Calabrese Spicy Olive Oil, Garlic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Greco’s Fra Diovolo Spicy Pasta Sauce, Balsamic Vinegar, a locally sourced homemade unbranded pasta and some fun sweets (several Sperlari wrapped anise hard candies and a Balconi Mix Max snack size cocoa cream filled cake).My second basket being consumed at the moment is the Arthur Avenue Basket. This is what I call a “little of this and that” meaning it mixes sweet and savory. I will say that this is the basket to get if you want the world famous imported cheeses and hard salamis that you are handing in Mike’s Deli. In the “Arthur Avenue” you get huge chucks of fresh Parmigiana Reggiano which you can grate and put on pasta or eat whole chunks and it is truly world class! You also get a large chunk of freshly cut Provolone, a large fresh Sopressata, a “regular” thin fresh salami, a jar of Vittoria’s Whole Green Olives, a large bag of the legendary Bucaneve cookies, Melora Bruschetta flavored with olive oil and garlic, a Balconi MixMax snack cake and a handful of Sperlari anise hard candies. As a single person this pile of goodies is going to last me a couple of weeks.
If you would like to order a basket or anything else to be mailed out from Mike’s Deli, go to www.arthuravenue.com. Don’t be afraid to call up Mike’s Deli directly to get your basket just as you like it. The staff is friendly and their number is 718-295-5033. I plan to make a visit someday in the future to taste their homemade mozzarella that I have heard so much about! It you see a lady carrying home about 15 pounds of fresh mozzarella on the 5 train headed towards Manhattan, you just know that it’s me! (Let me add right here that a basket from Marie’s Fresh Roasted Coffee Beans–which are also sold on www.arthuravenue.com–would be a perfect companion to any of Mike’s Deli’s baskets!)