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BELMONT, the Bronx — This Columbus Day, one Italian-American community hit hard during the pandemic was back in full force celebrating its roots.

Restaurant owners and customers on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx honored their Italian heritage on Monday with a day of food, entertainment and the company of friends and family after a rough year and a half navigating through COVID-19.

Regina Migliucci-Delfino is a proud Italian-American who owns the restaurant Mario’s.

“It’s been a rollercoaster,” Migliucci-Delfino said. “Last year, Columbus Day, we were not open because we only had outdoor dining and it was just so difficult. This year was like, ‘No guys, we’re going to do it. We’re going to open,’ and it’s been a wonderful day here.”

Mario’s has been open since 1919 and it’s been a family business for five generations.

The food is so good that a visit on this holiday has become tradition for husband and wife Vito and Paula Fernicola.

“Every year on Columbus Day we’re like, ‘Let’s go see the kids and stop and have a braciole,’” Fernicola said. “What’s better than that?”

Frank Franz of the Belmont Business Improvement District says walking down the street on this day feels like a neighborhood reunion.

“People get together in the restaurants, in the cafés, people haven’t seen each other in the longest time,” Franz said. “Just today I saw several stores of people walking into a restaurant. From across the restaurant somebody yells, ‘Hey Phil!’ ‘HeyTony!’ Somebody they haven’t seen in years. It’s a special thing.”

The Belmont BID says the restaurants have been able to withstand this period of time because they’ve been around for generations and aren’t going anywhere.

“We are here to stay and we have survived this traumatic pandemic that we’ve been through and we are all happy just to be still here and surviving with each other in our Italian-American community,” Migliucci said.