On January 2, the New York Times published this lovely little article, in which they tout the "regal beauty" of Fordham's Rose Hill campus, the collection of Greek, Etruscan and Roman Art in Walsh Library, the pizza on Arthur Avenue, and the great Mexican restaurant, Estrellita Poblano III. For everyone who's home for the holidays, here's a little reminder about why you'll be happy to come back in a couple of weeks.
Alumni like Denzel Washington, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Alan Alda and Lana Del Rey know it, but for those who never attended Fordham University, its regal beauty might be a surprise. With its landscaped lawns, well-groomed hedges and Gothic architecture, it was a go-to location for collegiate dramas, including “Love Story,” “Quiz Show” and “A Beautiful Mind.” The reason for plebeians to intrude is the Fordham Museum of Greek, Etruscan and Roman Art, housed in the contemporary William D. Walsh Family Library on the campus in the Bronx. The intimate museum is a bit like Nick Carraway living next door to Jay Gatsby, its more illustrious neighbors being the New York Botanical Garden and the Bronx Zoo.
William D. Walsh (1930-2013), a lawyer and financier who studied Greek and Latin at Fordham, spent decades and a fortune acquiring artifacts that made classical history more tangible. He bought two busts, for instance, of Caracalla, a brutal Roman emperor who had his brother assassinated and ordered massacres of thousands of perceived enemies before being murdered himself at age 29. A bronze bust of him as a small-lipped youth captures him looking harmless, before power corrupted him.
“Caracalla was a real beaut, so depraved,” said Jennifer Udell, the museum’s curator since it opened in 2007. “It’s the best portrait to teach to undergraduates.”
The majority of the approximately 280 objects from the ancient Mediterranean basin on display were donated by Mr. Walsh and his wife, Jane, and range from the fourth millennium B.C. to the fourth century A.D. There is a bust of the emperor Hadrian with fussy curls. Other notable objects include disembodied terra-cotta feet with wrinkly toes and pulsing veins, a sarcophagus for a toddler, flasks shaped like ducks and birds, and vessels depicting gods, goddesses, satyrs, nudes and breast-plated warriors.
Mr. Walsh purchased items for his collection at public auctions, Ms. Udell said, but the provenance of an extensive assortment of ancient coins was a foxhole in Italy. A soldier from the Bronx scooped them up during the Battle of Anzio in 1944 and donated them to Fordham in 1949. (The 1954 Hague Convention later prevented that type of “collecting.”)
An anonymous donor acquired several ornate Byzantine mosaics in 1972 and gave them to Fordham in 2013.
“Were they in Syria today, they most likely would have been destroyed through looting or shelling,” Ms. Udell said. “We’re trying to do the right thing by inviting in scholars and students and feel really lucky to have these objects in a safe place.”
Photo identification is required to pass through the security gate. The museum, at 441 East Fordham Road, is open to the public, for free, Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Closed for the holiday break, it reopens Jan. 4.)
To the south of the museum is Arthur Avenue, the Bronx’s Little Italy, where longtime regulars line up at shops selling fresh-made mozzarella and pasta. Arguments about the best pizza in the neighborhood abound, but it is hard to fault the slices at Café al Mercato, found at the back of the Arthur Avenue Retail Market (2344 Arthur Avenue).
But other cuisines have made inroads: Estrellita Poblano III (2328 Arthur Avenue, 718-220-7641), a homey spot, offers exemplary Mexican food.
Big, spicy cemitas can be had for $8.95: sesame rolls spread with black beans and mayo and stuffed with avocado, string cheese, onion, smoky chipotle peppers, papalo (a cousin of cilantro) and a choice of juicy pulled pork, chorizo, breaded beef or chicken. Diners can vary the heat with a choice of four salsas.
A platter of chicken enchiladas bathed in rich Pueblan chocolate-mole sauce ($14.95), served with an avalanche of soupy black beans and rice, is so huge it takes up almost half the table.