Arthur Avenue in the Bronx is known for its Italian restaurants, its cappuccino cafes and its old-school Italian-American population. It is also known as one of the safer streets in the borough, a reputation that made a bold jewelry store robbery there on Wednesday all the more surprising.
Just before 2 p.m., the police said, two robbers entered Spinelli & Son Jewelers, at 2310 Arthur Avenue, near Crescent Avenue. One of them waved a pistol and told Anthony Spinelli to open the safe. Mr. Spinelli apparently kept his licensed pistol in the safe, and wound up chasing the robbers out of the store as they were joined by a third waiting outside, according to the police.
Mr. Spinelli shot the man outside in the leg, the police said. As of last night, that man was in stable condition at a nearby hospital. Because the unnamed man was being treated, he had not yet been charged. The two other robbers escaped in a car; it is unclear whether they got away with any merchandise.
Mr. Spinelli was not charged.
Some local residents who saw the robbery muttered that the very fact that it had happened at all was a sign of a softening of a neighborhood once considered untouchable, perhaps because of its mob reputation. “In the old days, this never would have happened — on Arthur Avenue, are you kidding me?” Al Monetti, 62, a lifelong resident of the neighborhood, said. “In the old days, Spinelli wouldn’t have needed no gun. The whole neighborhood would have tackled them. It wasn’t a mob thing, it was a family thing.”
He said that it had been many years since this type of robbery had happened on the avenue. “Back then, a guy stole from the grocery store and before he got three stores away a bunch of guys tackled him,” he said.
He stared at the Spinelli sign — “18K Gold From Italy” — and said, “We’ve never been hit since then.”
Joe Binder, who is 100 but still works every day tending a nearby parking lot for Mario’s restaurant, said the neighborhood “stood up for itself more in the old days.”
“Today, everyone is slacking and minding their own business,” he said. “Years ago, the street was well protected. You had guys playing cards in social clubs all night, and if they saw anyone they didn’t recognize, they’d ask him, ‘What are you doing here?’ ”
Joe Migliucci, who owns Mario’s restaurant, now in its 92nd year, said, “I’ve never heard of anything like this happening here.”
“Criminals always felt like they won’t get away with anything here because everyone watches out for one another,” he said.
As far as mob activity, Mr. Migliucci said that he only knew what his father, Mario, told him about their restaurant missing out on being featured in the film “The Godfather.”
After Mario’s was mentioned in the book “The Godfather,” producers of the movie approached Mario Migliucci about filming a restaurant scene in his place. He declined.
“When they told my father it was going to be a shooting scene, he said no,” Joe Migliucci recounted. “He didn’t want that stigma.”
Sal Catania, who co-owns the pizza place across the street from the jewelry store, said, “This neighborhood was always safe — in the 1977 blackout, we were the only section that wasn’t looted. Fordham Road was destroyed, but not here.”