Today, it’s hard to imagine that Manhattan’s Little Italy once encompassed a much larger area than a few blocks along Mulberry Street. Yes, my family lived on Mulberry Street south of Canal Street close to Bayard Street. And Italians lived as far east as the Bowery. Little Italy shrinks as the years go by. It’s pretty much just Mulberry Street now maybe from Spring to Canal. But that’s a stretch, as most of the businesses along that strip are not Italian or Italian-owned. I would say the most Italian section of Little Italy is right off Mulberry and Grand Streets. Here is the fairly new Italian American Museum, opened in 2001. The building was the Banca Stabile, a bank founded in 1885 to aid the local Italian community and arriving immigrants. Due to financial reasons, the museum is seeking a developer to build a new building at the site, so if you want to see the historic building, you should visit now.
Across the street is E. Rossi & Company, an Italian housewares store that used to be on the corner and that every Italian American from NYC remembers. Here is a great history of the store. The article also mentions Paolucci’s, a restaurant that closed as rents went up. Paolucci’s actually had perciatelli on the menu. The owner introduced me to Goodfellas‘ author Nick Pileggi at the restaurant one night.
Of course, no stop to Little Italy is complete without a visit to the famed pasticceria Ferrara.
Try gelato or pastries, such as cannoli, napoleons, eclairs, or rum babas.
At the end of the block on Mott Street is Di Palo’s, an Italian deli/grocery.
Head south on Mulberry Street to the Church of the Most Precious Blood. Established in 1891, this church is the site of the San Gennaro festival in September.
For coal-oven pizza, try Lombardi’s on Spring and Mott Streets, the first pizzeria in the United States, opened in 1905.
What to Eat: Cannoli from Ferrara, pizza from Lombardi’s
Where to Shop: E. Rossi & Company for housewares and Italian novelties; Alleva Dairy and Di Palo for cheese, meat and grocery items; Piemonte Ravioli for pasta
What to See: Italian American Museum, Church of the Most Precious Blood