Visitors from all over the world come to Arthur Avenue for fine Italian food, and now even the Department of Probation is getting into the act. They recently brought young probationers to the Italian enclave to expand their horizons.
As part of an ongoing effort by the Department of Probation to expose young probationers under 16 to various cultures, two groups of about 10 each toured Arthur Avenue on Tuesday, August 15 and Thursday, August 17 with their assigned officers.
According to DOP officials, research shows that the trips promote positive behavior, which they believe is the best way to reduce recidivism.
The Bronx Family Services Unit launched the Diversity Tour to expose young people to parts of the city they may not have even known existed. This includes places like the South Street Seaport, Jackson Heights, Chinatown, and now Arthur Avenue, in their home borough.
“We thought of these trips as a way to give these kids exposure to different cultures,” said Olivien Manns-Nelson, head of Bronx Juvenile Operations for DOP. “We found that many of these kids never leave their neighborhoods, which can lead to boredom and isolation. Yet they live close to many great attractions, like the Arthur Avenue food market. We wanted to bring them here so that they could see, hear, and taste it for themselves.”
The group was joined by DOP commissioner Vincent Schiraldi as it toured the Arthur Avenue Retail Market at 2344 Arthur Avenue, stopping at Mike’s Deli to make mozzarella with deli owner Vinny Greco.
“I want to teach these young people that they are what they eat,” Greco said. “I consider them my future customers, and I want to get them hooked. They may have to walk a few extra blocks, but it will be worth it because they can get the best food there is.”
Greco and Schiraldi both conducted a demonstration in making mozzarella, and everyone enjoyed freshly made samples of the Italian cheese. Greco also taught the young people how to pronounce the word “mozzarella” properly in Italian.
The group also saw how bread is made at Madonia Bakery at 2348 Arthur Avenue, discussed local history at Teitel Brothers at 2372 Arthur Avenue, had lunch at Zero Otto Nove Trattoria at 2357 Arthur Avenue, handled live seafood at Randazzo’s Seafood at 2327 Arthur Avenue, and stuffed mini canoli at De Lillo Pastry Shop at 606 E. 187 Street.
Many in the group said that they would be willing to return to Arthur Avenue to buy Italian Food, and were impressed by things they had never seen before, like live fish being sold fresh.
“By having these kids experience different cultures, it expands their horizons and they think of things other than delinquent behavior,” Schiraldi said. “It also breaks down stereotypes on both sides.”