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Teitel Brothers: A Legendary Arthur Ave Locale

food and-drink

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Fordham University

culture

Teitel Brothers: A Legendary Arthur Ave Locale

A deli, store, market, and wholesale all in one.

Fiona Shea

11.26.17

Read time: 7 minutes.

Photography by Katie Mays

On the Northeast corner of Arthur Avenue and 186th Street stands a little shop with a bright green awning. Passersby mosey around the entrance, inspecting piles of San Marzano tomatoes, black olives, and Lupini beans that are constructed into neat towers. A woman with a thick New York accent inquires about the roasted red peppers in the window. “I’ll get foura those,” she yells through the closing door. “I’m cookin’ for Thanksgiving, you know. All the cousins are comin’ ova.” She knows one of men behind the counter, who replies with an affirming nod as he finishes slicing a big wheel of cheese.


Once inside, the smells of suspended meats, barrels of sundried tomatoes, and that freshly cut cheese (which you might get a free sample of if you linger for long enough), fuse to create an incredibly dynamic, Italian market aroma. For a second, you’re not taking just taking a hiatus from Modern [Market] to purchase a bottle of olive oil for your apartment. Momentarily, your identity as a college student who cooks pasta three nights a week and eats Rams the remaining four is forgotten. Today, you are a gifted chef, shopping for the raw supplies that will complete an exquisite Italian recipe. The authenticity of Teitel Brothers overwhelms you. You can play pretend for a minute.

Teitel Brothers is a family owned, family run, and family-oriented native Bronx business. Opened over 100 years ago by Morris and Jacob Teitel, the shop has occupied its Little Italy location ever since the two brothers immigrated to America from Austria. Today, the shop is run by a younger generation of Teitel Brothers, the grandsons and great-nephews of Jacob and Morris. As I spoke with Ed Teitel, a self-proclaimed “brother, father, son, and nephew ”of the Teitel family, I learned how his family’s business has maintained their reputation as one of the leading places to shop for Italian food supplies on Arthur Avenue.



“Hi, I’m Fiona, is Ed here?” I had visited Teitel Brothers the day before to arrange a meeting with an unknown “Ed” so my arrival was expected. Before the young man could answer, Ed made his way from behind the counter with a beaming smile and an extended hand. “Fionaaa!” He cheered. I already liked Ed. He squeezed past the counter and motioned to the door. “Let’s step outside” he suggested. “I don’t want to disturb them.”

Ed asked me about my necklace, which is an “F” in sign language. “Do you speak sign language?” he asked. “I’m out of practice, so only a little,” I reply hesitantly. He still seems thoroughly impressed. We went on to talk about my major at Fordham. I wasn’t even insulted when Ed thought I was a freshman. He was too nice. As we progressed to the interview portion of the conversation, I started with, “So...what is this place?”


Ed explained that Teitel Brothers is a deli, a store, a market, and wholesale all in one. They import a bulk of their goods straight from Italy, including the popular San Marzano tomatoes that consume the storefront. He says that this time of year, from Thanksgiving to Christmas, is certainly their busiest time of year. “This is a destination store” he proclaims. “We have locals who shop here everyday, as well as people who travel from all around the New York area.” An older man looking through the towers of sale items chimes in: “Like me, from Brooklyn County!” He raises his fist in exaltation. “Yes, like Brooklyn County,” Ed smiles.


As our conversation concludes, I ask Ed what he recommends as the best recipe for Fordham students looking to make a delectable Italian meal. He keeps it simple for me and insists that the San Marzano tomato sauce paired with some fresh pasta is all I need. I follow Ed’s instructions and return to Teitel Brothers a few days later to make my purchases.

Ed sees me behind the crowd carrying my gnocchi and tomato sauce. “I like your hair today!” he shouts over the sea of holiday shoppers. He waves me to the front of the line and, as I push past the staring faces, I finally understand what it’s like to be one of the Arthur Avenue grocer scene socialites. Who is this pink-haired nobody wearing pajamas and only buying two damn items? The questioning expressions burn the back of my head. Ed said it was fine, so it’s fine, I remind myself. Once I reach the counter, everyone seems to loosen up. I wasn’t a convincing Teitel Brothers bigwig, but Ed’s camaraderie secures my status. He ensures that I am buying the best tomato sauce they have (or that anyone has) to offer, and wishes me good luck in my cooking endeavor.

As expected, the gnocchi and tomato sauce are extremely satisfying, unprocessed, and easy to prepare. I learned that gnocchi takes less than five minutes to boil. Right when the potato pasta begins to rise to the surface of the water, it’s ready to serve. The tomato sauce is a light mix of fresh tomatoes and sea salt, making for a much healthier alternative to store brand sauces. Best of all, Teitel Brothers won’t strain your wallet - only seven dollars for the pasta and sauce combined, which easily makes two meals.

Teitel Brothers Gnocchi di patate and tomato sauce.

Teitel Brothers is the ultimate Arthur Avenue locale. Come here to buy delicious goods, make friends, receive compliments from Ed, learn how to become a better cook (probably a better person too), and support a phenomenal Bronx business. The neighborhood Italian oasis awaits you.