The secret has long been out on Calabria Pork Store, the house of sopressata (all $14.99 a pound), and it remains for me the foremost destination on Arthur Avenue: the only place you must, no excuses, go. Borgatti still churns out good ravioli and egg noodles, Zero Otto Nove makes solid if not spectacular pies, and Mario's makes my favorite red sauce in the neighborhood. But Calabria is something else entirely, free of the gimmicks that often plague the neighborhood's stores and chuck full of Old World charm.
Over my years in the neighborhood I've become partial to their extra hot sopressata, moving from sweet to spicy as my fondness for chilies grew. Once I'd bought a link there was little that could be done to stop me from biting off a chunk, or at least nervously tugging at my bag, on the walk back home. But a friend's recommendation of their hot flat sopressata has won me over. The flavor is sweeter and more concentrated than the sausage links, with a prickly, fiery heat that creeps down your throat towards the end of the chew. It's oily but not too fatty, with plenty of quality, chewy meat. And while it doesn't have the more substantial heat of the extra spicy, which packs much more of a punch, it's a flavorful bite.
Calabria is the earliest of my formative food experiences in the Bronx, and stepping into that tiny storefront was like a trip through the looking glass. Innumerable sausages hang from the ceiling, all in various states of the curing process: some covered in white mold, others ready to eat. The room is filled with a pungent aroma, not all that pleasant and certainly not for everyone. But it's a visceral experience, and for many Americans the closest they'll get to the sausage making tradition.
Alongside the sopressata, Calabria offers a roster of fresh sausages, including liver and broccoli rabe, as well as and fresh mozzarella. But these are all sideshows, distractions from "the Real Little Italy's" biggest star. So whatever else piques your fancy, don't forget about what made the store famous in the first place: one of the city's best sausages.
Calabria Pork Store
2338 Arthur Avenue, The Bronx, NY 10458 (map) 718-367-5145