New Beer Hall Headed to The Bronx's Little Italy

By Patrick Wall | May 17, 2012 11:20am 

BELMONT — The Bronx’s own Little Italy is historically known for its sausage, wine, pasta and cannoli. Now, a beer garden could be added to the list.

The idea of an Italian-style beer hall inside the Arthur Avenue Retail Market might seem like a cultural stretch, but it’s just the thing the neighborhood needs to attract a new generation of visitors, said David Greco, owner of Arthur Avenue Trattoria and Mike’s Deli.

"We’re trying to rejuvenate the neighborhood and refresh the Arthur Avenue Market," said Greco, whose deli is based in the market and will provide food for the beer hall.

Greco teamed up with Jonas Bronck’s Beer Company and fromTheBronx, a local company that sells Bronx merchandise online, to create The Bronx Beer Hall, which is set to open in July.

The hall will be situated in the center of the avenue’s 72-year-old market, where up to 49 patrons will be able to crowd onto communal tables, sip on Bronck’s brews, feast on all-new Greco dishes and soak up the local history.

"Beer halls are popping up all over the city," said Anthony Ramirez II, co-founder of fromTheBronx, who discovered more than 90 beer halls that opened around the city in the past five years in his market research. "I think it’s something the Bronx needs, too."

The group plans to decorate the space with work by Bronx artists and memorabilia from the borough’s musicians and celebrities.

"Almost the way the Hard Rock Cafe is for rock music, we want to do something like that for The Bronx," Ramirez said.

Jonas Bronck’s Beer Company, a 10-month-old venture that pays tribute to the borough’s namesake, will serve its Bronx-inspired brews — including Pelham Bay IPA, Woodlawn Weiss and Kingsbridge Kölsch.

"We like to tie in The Bronx history to everything that we do," said Steve Nallen, the accountant and Bronx history buff who founded the brewery.

He noted that the beer hall’s tables will be made of wood reclaimed from a sign that hung on an upstate barn for 250 years.

Combine that with however long the tree stood before it became a sign, said Nallen, a sixth-generation Bronxite on his mother’s side, "And there’s a chance this wood was here when Jonas Bronck was" — in the 17th century.

The beer hall’s food, however, will be of a less historic vintage.

Greco has cooked up menu items that he said he wouldn’t normally serve in his renowned Italian deli or restaurant — mac-and-cheese on a stick, turkey sliders with "special sauce," shoestring fries, skinless Albanian sausage, pulled pork, fried calf brains.

Hopefully, Greco said, the menu lives up to his vision for the beer hall, which he put succinctly, "Good friends, good food, good drink."

In case July seems too long a wait for The Bronx Beer Hall, the founders are hosting a preview of the hall’s food and drink Thursday and Friday on the lawn of the Bronx County Historical Society's Valentine-Varian Home, at 3266 Bainbridge Ave.

The free event runs from 4 until 9 p.m. both nights and will feature a cash bar, live music, a photo shoot by students from the High School of World Cultures and Bronx historian Lloyd Ultan.