Posted By Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle
9/12/2012 11:54:00 PM
We know of one woman, 85 years of age, who lives in the northern suburbs of New York City. She probably shouldn't be driving at all anymore, yet she still makes the twice-weekly trip to Madonia Bakery, 94 years of age, in The Bronx, for her fix of the Italian bread she grew up with. Good, old-fashioned bread will do that to true yeast fanatics.
You might think that, here in the famous Italian Bronx enclave of Arthur Avenue in the Belmont section of The Bronx, with the dozens upon dozens of bakeries, restaurants, and food shops, a person could walk into a place at random and be assured of enjoying the finest in Italian-American edibles. Not true. As in any neighborhood, it still pays to know what's what. When it comes to bread, now you know.
Madonia's regular Italian bread can't be beat, featuring a sturdy crust and wheaty-tasting crumb, a pleasure to consume without adornment, but there's so much more to explore here. Like the rings of prosciutto bread and cicola (lard) bread. We always thought they were the same thing, but evidently they are not. Madonia's prosciutto bread is more bread accented with bits of the cured pork, rather than the cheese and cold cut bomb found in some Italian bakeries, with a beguiling peppery flavor. The cicola? We haven't tried it yet.
Our favorite baked treat is the fennel and raisin loaf, an aromatic, light-textured, and crusty combination of sweet and savory. The tall onion breads are filled not with flecks, but with big sections, of sweet onion. There's an endless variety of rings and braids, flat loaves, tall loaves, seeded breads, fruited breads, and breads filled with cheese or olives.
Many of the loaves get turned into various crunchy toasts by the bagful (we love those olive bread toasts), and they also have taralli, those pepper and fennel crackers that look like miniature bagels. They'll even fill a cannolo while you wait (never buy pre-filled cannoli!).
We cannot restrain ourselves. Our arms are always laden with a freezer's worth of baked goods after a Madonia visit. And we've never regretted it.