Someone open a franchise ASAP!
by Devin Dagastino
Staff Bread Stick Lover
Last weekend, I attended Arthur Avenue’s celebration of Ferragosto – the Festival of August hosted annually in September. Surrounded by some of the greatest bakeries, butcher shops, and pizzerias this side of the Apennine Peninsula, I was astonished to see that absent from New York’s “Real Little Italy” was an Olive Garden.In the 1870s, tens of thousands of Italians seeking refuge from hunger, poverty, and violence immigrated to the United States. Facing oppression and discrimination, these immigrants formed their own neighborhoods where they could feel accepted and at home. One of those neighborhoods was a little street in the Bronx called Arthur Avenue. From these humble beginnings, Arthur Avenue has become one of New York’s major tourist destinations, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. Still living in this neighborhood and calling it home are the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of those original immigrants.
For a street that claims to be “the best place for bread, pasta, meat, pastries, espresso machines, and more,” I find it strange that it has yet to include the restaurant where Brad R. from Toledo, Ohio proposed to his girlfriend of three years and claimed: “those bread sticks were the greatest things to ever happen to me!”
People come to Arthur Avenue thinking they’re getting the authentic Italian experience, but they’re missing that classic shrimp scampi, braised beef Bolognese, and S’mores Layer Cake that you can only get at Olive Garden.
Some may argue that with the dozens of restaurants already lining the street, what need is there for an Olive Garden on Arthur Avenue? The answer to that question is simple: community. “We’re all family here,” the restaurant declares, and with its familiar food and comfortable atmosphere, that line rings true.
The continued success of Applebee’s and Chipotle shows us that members of the Fordham community are craving that intimate, personalized relationship that such restaurants provide. An Olive Garden will continue to realize this tradition.
Coming from an Italian-American family, every Sunday we would all sit down together and enjoy a dinner of seemingly endless dishes of pasta, meatballs, chicken parmigiana, ravioli, lasagna, and bread sticks – oh how I long for that fettuccini alfredo that my mom used to order.
In 2016, one hundred and sixty years after the first Italians settled there, the American Planning Association recognized Arthur Avenue as one of the ‘Great Streets of America.’ With the addition of an Olive Garden, it might just become the greatest.