Close-Up On: Belmont


Portions of this article have been updated.

In an era of skyrocketing rents and continual anointing of the trendiest new neighborhoods, an area that seems more like home than a status symbol is becoming rare. Belmont, the “Little Italy of the Bronx,” evokes memories of old New York: women shopping at outdoor markets along Arthur Avenue, kids lapping up gelati in the summer heat, old men slapping down dominoes in front of Joe’s Deli. Part of the pre-Revolutionary War manor of Fordham, the area attracted Italian immigrants hired to build the Bronx Zoo in the 1890s. Today, despite an influx of Albanian immigrants and a growing African American, Mexican, and Puerto Rican presence, it remains quintessentially Italian—and quintessentially Bronx, as evidenced by the Robert De Niro film A Bronx Tale, which was set in Belmont. It also is home to three of the city’s main attractions: the New York Botanical Garden, the picturesque Rose Hill campus of Fordham University, and of course the Bronx Zoo.

Boundaries: Fordham University to the north, the Bronx Zoo and Southern Boulevard to the east, Tremont Avenue to the south, and Grand Concourse to the west.

Main Drags: Arthur Avenue is the heart of Belmont, but use 187th Street if traveling by car.

Mass Transit: 2, 5 trains to 174th Street, then BX19 to Bronx Park; 2, 5 trains to Third Avenue/149th Street, then BX55 to Fordham Plaza; Metro-North Commuter Railroad to Fordham; 45 minutes from Union Square to 174th Street.

Average Apartment Rents: One-bedroom: $700 to $900 ($500); two-bedroom: $800 to $1200 ($700); three-bedroom; $1100 to $1400 ($900.)

Average Price to Buy: Two-family homes generally sell for between $300,000 to $450,000 ($150,000 and $200,000.)

Cultural Institutions: The Belmont Playhouse, a neighborhood fixture for a decade, recently had to abandon its old digs at 2385 Arthur Avenue. Last year, two plays by Moonstruck auteur John Patrick Shanley made their New York debuts at the Playhouse, and it premiered plays by Italian American and local playwrights. The Belmont Regional Branch Library, also known as the Enrico Fermi Cultural Center, 610 East 168th Street, has a trove of books, periodicals, records, films, tapes, and photographs documenting Italian and Italian American culture.

Famous Residents: In the late ’50s, local teenager Dion DiMucci hooked up with some of his Belmont Avenue buddies to form a vocal group. He dropped his surname and picked up huge success as the lead singer of the rock group Dion and the Belmonts, responsible for the pop classic “A Teenager in Love,” later, as a solo artist, cutting “Runaround Sue.”

Sietsema’s Picks: Roberto’s, 632 East 186th Street, is well known among locals and students for its intimate settings and adventurous Italian fare. Restorant Shqiptar, 660 East 187th Street, specializes in traditional kuzhinë shqiptare, or Albanian cuisine.

Other Restaurants: You can’t go wrong eating out in Belmont. However, a few restaurants do stand out. Emilia’s, 2331 Arthur Avenue, is neck-and-neck with Roberto’s for the best place to take a date. Egidio’s, 622 East 187th Street, gets high marks for its desserts, especially the cannoli. Pizza shops abound, but residents give hands-down thumbs-ups to Full Moon Pizzeria and Grill, 600 East 187th Street, and Joe’s Deli, 685 East 187th Street.

Best Bars: Alumni Hall, 608 East Fordham Road, is the bar for Fordham students. Mug’z Sports Bar, 2478 Arthur Avenue, is a great spot to catch a Yankee game, and also caters to the college crowd. Some residents prefer the Howl at the Moon Bar and Café, 2325 Arthur Avenue, a low-lit establishment that plays lively Spanish dance music—even on Sunday evenings.

Community Organizations: The Pius XII/M.S. 45 Beacon Program, 2502 Lorillard Place, offers English as a second language and basic Spanish literacy courses, as well as job readiness classes, family counseling, and recreational programs.

Local Politicos: City Councilman Joel Rivera (Democrat); State Assemblywoman Gloria Davis (Democrat); State Senator Jeff Klein (Democrat); Congressman Eliot L. Engel (Democrat).

Crime Stats: In addition to Belmont, the 48th Precinct covers East Tremont, West Farms, and Bathgate. As of November 6, 2005, it reported 8 murders, 30 rapes, 324 robberies, 234 felony assaults, and 248 burglaries. (In addition to Belmont, the 48th Precinct covers East Tremont, West Farms, and Bathgate. As of May 5, the 48th had investigated two homicides (compared to four at the same time last year), 10 rapes (the same as in 2001), 115 robberies (a 5 percent decrease), 133 felony assaults (down 4 percent), and 107 burglaries (down 13 percent).