Most Fordham students know that Arthur Avenue is famous for its array of Italian eateries. The wide variety of food offered in Bronx Little Italy goes beyond Arthur Avenue. From street vendors to restaurants, the Bronx has every type of food imaginable. Foodies can enjoy lobster and seafood at City Island Seafood Shack, Caribbean food from Fauzia’s Heavenly Delights, chocolate mousse at Miss Grimble, and pastrami and rye at Liebman’s Deli. The list goes on.
Until a few years ago, there was no one-stop showcase of all the fantastic food found in the Bronx. Marco Shalma co-founded the market with Amanda Celestino, Fordham College at Rose Hill ’17, in order to change that.
Shalma and Celestino co-founded the Bronx Night Market in 2018. They met at a food event held in the South Bronx and connected after seeing a lack of appreciation for food from the borough. They sought to create a market with the goal of spreading the word about the incredible food in the Bronx.
Both Shalma and Celestino are foodies with an affinity for marketing and great aesthetics. They made a perfect team. Their experience in marketing was integral — Celestino worked as an editor of the magazine “Edible Bronx,” and Shalma worked for a company doing marketing for small businesses.
The first Bronx Night Market included restaurants from around the borough and tried to bring a “global experience” to market goers.
Over the past decade, night markets brimming with food vendors, food and music have sprung up throughout NYC’s five boroughs and across major cities in the U.S.
On March 21, 2011, Smorgasburg opened in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It became a massive success and the largest open-air market in the country. The concept of open-air food markets continued to spread. Smorgasburg opened locations in Manhattan and Los Angeles, and in 2015, Queens launched its own night market.
Shalma and Celestino knew that the Bronx also had the potential to be a major attraction, so they began looking for the perfect location.
“Once we found the Fordham Plaza, we knew immediately that was the place,” Shalma said. “First of all, it has Fordham University right there. Second, it is right by the Metro North. And third, it is one of the largest plazas and shopping districts in the city.”
More than 7,000 people attended the first event on June 30, 2018, making it a huge success.
The first Bronx Night Market included restaurants from around the borough and tried to bring a “global experience” to market goers. As the market expanded, street vendors have found it easier to staff their booths.
Many micro-businesses are immigrant-owned.
“There is a core group of about 10-12 vendors that everyone loves and has come to expect,” Shalma said. “Most people don’t come every week, but when they do, they expect to see certain vendors. For the rest of the slots, we make sure to mix it up and give different businesses the opportunity.”
The Bronx Night Market aims to support small businesses (those with fewer than 500 employees) by exposing them to new customers. Shalma also hopes to employ “micro-business” vendors (those with 20 employees or fewer) at the market.
Many micro-businesses are immigrant-owned. Shalma has always wanted to use the Bronx Night Market to facilitate their success. During the pandemic shut-down when many of these local vendors suffered economic losses, the market partnered with the Bronx Chamber of Commerce in December 2020 for its annual toy and coat drive. The event allowed vendors to stay open and sell products during the holiday season.
The Bronx Night Market hosted its last event of 2021 on Nov. 13, which was called the Bronx Harvest Fest.
The free market’s music and lights cannot be missed, and anyone can explore the plethora of food offerings and vendors for free. Its location is a five-minute walk from the closest Rose Hill campus exit, which makes it a perfect destination for Fordham students.
Jason Bonner, Fordham College at Lincoln Center ’25, attended the market on Halloween weekend.
“I thought it was really fun. The DJ was good and the music was pretty cool,” Bonner said. “The tacos I had were really, really good.”
The Bronx Night Market hosted its last event of 2021 on Nov. 13, which was called the Bronx Harvest Fest. In addition to the 55 vendors in attendance, there was a full lineup of performers — including two Fordham a cappella groups.
Shalma appreciates when Fordham students check out their events.
“I’d just like to shout out Fordham U kids. Every year at the end of August, the vibe changes at the Market, and you know that Fordham students are back,” Shalma said. “It’s great to have them here, and it always makes the September and October months of the season some of our favorites.”