Piazza di Belmont: Arthur Avenue kicks off in-street dining

Council member Ritchie Torres cuts the ribbon, opening up Piazza di Belmont on Thursday, July 7. (Alex Mitchell)

The Bronx’s Little Italy expanded just a tad as it officially began doing streetside dining, closing the iconic avenue to vehicular traffic late last week.

Aptly called “Piazza di Belmont,” Arthur Avenue will be closed to cars from 6 to 10 p.m. on upcoming Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, as well as being shut all day on Sundays from 1 to 9:30 p.m.

The plan to do so, which was first reported by amNewYork Metro, had recruited the literal street smarts of former NYC Traffic Commissioner Sam Schwartz to create the best course of action on closing down Arthur Avenue between East 188th Street and Crescent Avenue.

Blueprints courtesy of the Belmont BID.

That plan, which was ready to come out of the oven on Thursday, July 7 was served with a ribbon cutting done by Belmont City Council Member Ritchie Torres along with merchants and members of the Belmont Business Improvement District.

While awaiting the results of his own congressional primary, one that Torres leads heavily in, he told the Bronx Times that a celebration meal would be enjoyed on Arthur Avenue.

“To me, Arthur Avenue represents the highest hopes and aspirations of America,” Torres said, adding that he considers the Belmont community on the avenue to be like family “both on a personal and political level.”

As for the local restauranteurs, they’re energetic to have capabilities of expanding outdoor seating as the city keeps indoor dining in the freezer for the time being.

Mario’s owner Regina Delfino with streetside customers on Thursday, July 7. (Alex Mitchell)

The owner of the 101 year old Mario’s, Regina Delfino says that Piazza di Belmont is certainly a step in the right direction — however restaurants need indoor seating to once again thrive in these boroughs.

Mother nature demonstrated a perfect example of her point on Friday as Tropical Storm Fay passed through the city, sidelining just about any NYC restaurant from serving anything that isn’t takeout.

Citing Belmont’s close proximity to the Westchester border, Delfino questioned why restaurants only minutes away were allowed to have indoor seating at a reduced capacity yet places like Arthur Avenue in outer boroughs couldn’t have any exceptions made from the city.

Delfino’s commentary comes after losing her father, Joseph Migliucci, the original owner of Mario’s, to coronavirus in April.

Like many on the block, she’s modified her restaurant’s menu to accommodate a more outdoorsy crowd.

Mario’s has added more pizza-esque options in addition to grating down other parts of what is normally quite an extensive menu for the time being.

Though, it’s still downright delicious.

Close up of a margarita pie from Mario’s. (Alex Mitchell)

It’s only a few minutes into a streetside meal on Arthur Avenue that a silver lining of romance comes into play.

Suddenly, it’s a more peaceful environment due to the lack of passing cars and delivery trucks; believe it or not, even a calming breeze can be felt while seated beneath either an umbrella or tent in one of the many Italian staples that Piazza di Belmont consists of.

Enzo’s streetside setup for outdoor dining. (Alex Mitchell)