I could not be more proud to have “Artuso’s” as the locals call it, the first post on this blog as they, in my opinion, (which is worth about a 1935 NYC Subway Fare-.o5 cents ), embody everything this entire blog is about. There is a history behind this bakery, a tradition, a family, a story, an immigrant story, success and so much more.
Artuso’s is also a part of a delicate fabric that is the “little Ireland” neighborhood of Yonkers. The south east area of the city that stretches from McLean Ave and the NYS Thruway, east towards the Mount Vernon border and flanked to the south by the Woodlawn section of the Bronx.
When the bakery opened in 1966, the Artuso family name had already been branded on two other stores, one in Mt.Vernon and one off of Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. The baby of the family though had a strong woman at the helm in Anna Artuso and while she only exists now in memory, recipe and pictures that can be seen around the tiny bakery, what she started in the 60’s still exists today.
The bakery itself is small, narrow and a place where you are forced to say “good morning”, “Hey Tommy hows it going?”, “excuse me miss” etc…45 years have gone by since the doors opened and guess what… the exact same door still exists there today! That was one of the first things I noticed about this Yonkers gem.
The owner would tell you that it is the service and quality of ingredients and all that jazz that brings people back time after time but I beg to differ. I mean Artuso’s has become an institution, hallowed ground to some. People who are now decamped in Rockland, Orange, Dutchess, Ulster counties, 75-100miles away from Yonkers STILL flock to the bakery. If you are traveling down to New Jersey to see a relative, you must stop here to pick up your bread and cookies and nothing else will do! If you want a cake made, it HAS to be Artuso’s I know what your saying, bakeries are a dime a dozen….but they are NOT Artuso’s!
These sentiments are not my own, but have been muttered by generations of New Yorkers who grew up in Yonkers or the Bronx and grew up with Artuso’s Pastry Shop on McLean Avenue.
My fear sometimes is that people in the future will turn elsewhere for their brownies, cakes and other goodies. A supermarket perhaps so that they can also pick up diapers, milk and paper towels. There is something very New York about going into SPECIFICALLY a bakery. Yes I can get flowers at Walmart along with everything else, but going into a flower shop and having a FLORIST assist you is an experience that will always out weigh the stellar customer service of Walmart or any of the “marts”. I like to call them “farts”, not because it makes sense, but because I enjoy rhyming, but I digress.
God only knows how long this scene has been taking place. Two guys from the neighborhood come into Artuso’s, “hey umm…gimme me a ( insert your favorite pastry here ____ )” I mean this is a bakery, where customers are being served by the owner or the baker or someone who is the son or daughter of the owner, or in this case, the founder’s grandson.
A large picture of Anna Artuso herself looms over the register and I simply love the gesture she has in the picture, as if to say “what do you want huh?” I imagine she was a lovely woman with hundreds of stories and I regret never having the chance to meet her despite the countless number of times I was in the bakery as a kid. I like to think my father shook her hand at least once but who knows.
Yummy Cakes! Artuso’s also does, and in my opinion better and more creative cakes that you see on shows like “Cake Boss” The owner says he has been doing those for 20 years, so take that Cake Boss!
The prices are still very reasonable but again, Artuso’s is NOT about price. It is NOT their service, their ingredients, their smiles, their selection, it’s something much much larger. It’s this.
And perhaps most importantly, this. Tradition, a name that means something. I told the owner that he could probably double his prices and people would STILL come to Artuso’s. Again, it’s not about price, location, any of that. It is a family business and a place people care about, both those who serve and those who are being served.
I hope that this post will serve as a template for things to come on the Myyonkers blog. Yonkers is a special city that cannot be fully understood by a map or a newspaper article or by a single person or place. Yonkers needs to be dissected, peeled back layer by layer and in my opinion, the city yearns for a chance to exploit itself for who it really is and what it stands for.