Arancini Bros. is a staple of the Bowery’s Essex Street Market, and of concert and sporting venues around New York City. They serve a traditional Sicilian street food called arancini – deep fried cheese and rice balls named for their resemblance in size and color to an orange. Co-founder Dave Campaniello first tried arancini in Brooklyn, and he and his cousin Cooper School of Art graduate Giulia Della Gatta thought it could be a hit specialty item thanks to its versatility. Traditional arancini may be stuffed with ham or peas or cheeses, but the possibilities for innovation are endless.
Arancini Bros. concession stands have been a big hit at Madison Square Garden, Forest Hills Stadium, and Citi Field. Their sucess prompted the Boston Red Sox to want their own arancini outpost, and Della Gatta traveled to Fort Myers, Florida in February 2020 to test the idea at the team’s spring training stadium. The pandemic put the idea on hold. During the worst months of COVID, flexibility and responsiveness were critical, says Della Gatta. “95-plus percent of our business is around venues for large groups of people. It was challenging.”
The company has thrived thanks to the owners’ willingness to think creatively and tweak traditions. Besides the classics, they offer arancini made of rice cooked in squid ink with a spicy shrimp center; a French onion variety with gruyere cheese; an apple pie rice ball; and even Nutella-filled arancini. “Our varieties are pretty extensive, and logistically speaking, it’s unheard of. The only food sector that comes close to the plethora of variety we offer is ice cream or candy. It’s a unique position to hold.”