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Little Italy New York City


It's still there - Little Italy, New York

Nestled between Chinatown and the Soho District and Greenwich Village, lies, for many, the birthplace of Italian heritage in this country - Little Italy, New York.   On my recent trip to New York, I was able to visit the historic district which once stretched across the entire Lower East side of Manhattan.  

Today, most of Little Italy has been replaced by Chinatown after laws restricting Asian immigration were changed in 1965.   Little Italy consists of primarily a six-block stretch of Mulberry Street from Canal to Prince Street with Grand Street and Mott Street as thoroughfares.   There are about 11,000 residents of mostly second and third generation Italian Americans.   Approximately the same number as in 1980 - a far cry from the 100,000 that once resided there earlier this century.   Many of the faces now are Chineese and Vietnamese, and even some a mixture of Asian and Italian.   The neighborhood’s northern tip has even been renamed to NoLita (north of Little Italy) - taking on a more trendy and hip atmosphere.  

Even with a shrinking population, the Italian spirit still remains strong in Little Italy.   You can still have a cappuccino while sitting outside at Caffe’ Palermo or enjoy a delicious pastry at the world-famous Ferrara’s Bakery.   There are still some great Italian restaurants, butcher shops, souvenir shops, furniture stores, etc.   You can still hear Sicilian and Napolitan dialects, along with the proper Italian echoing through the neighborhood streets.  

And for 11 days in September, more than 1 million visitors will fill the six-block area during the feast of San Gennaro, patron saint of Naples.   The crowds will enjoy a parade which travels down Mulberry street while savoring a zeppole - a fried, cream-filled pastry, or some sausage and peppers from one of the local vendors.   Italian flags will hang from the telephone poles and apartment windows.   It is a feast where the history and heritage of the Italian culture is celebrated.   Local politicians, most notably Mayor Giuliani, tried to halt the feast in 1996 alleging that the feast’s organizers and founders had links to the mob.   The next year, a group of local businessmen founded a non-profit organization to keep the feast going and is still thriving today.  

It is exactly this kind of spirit that will keep Little Italy, New York alive for many more years.   It is a definite must-see for a visitor of New York.   With easy access from Times Square (take the B or D subway line to the Grand Street station and then head West), you can easily spend lunch in one of the quaint restaurants and still have time for the other sights of Manhattan.  

Despite the shrinking Italian population and the increasing Asian influence, Little Italy will always be the birth place of Italian culture in this country.   And even if there is only one Italian remaining in New York, you can rest assured that the spirit of Little Italy will forever be a part of New York and Italian-Americans in this country.  

Some restaurant recommendations for Little Italy
by Mickey Petruzzi, Indianapolis, IN

My first night I ate at Emilio Ballato's up on Houston between Mulberry and Mott Streets.   I was given this place as a recommendation from a co-worker.   It was a very nice place, relaxing and most of all served great Italian food.   Although it is somewhat away from the rest of the action on Mulberry, it was definitely worth the extra few blocks of walking to dine at.   I was actually the only one their during my entire dining which allowed for great service and some time to talk with the owner.   I went all out with soup, salad, pasta, and topped it off with a cannoli and espresso.  

My second night ... I dined with a co-worker in Little Italy again at Di Nico.   It was also a good experience and again we were the only two people inside the place the entire time.   There were a few people sitting outside and also we saw some walk to the garden to eat.   I didn't go all out like I did at Ballato's and just had a salad and pasta.   I did experience my first beer from Italy, Peroni.   Overall, it was a great experience and a good meal.  


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