Tag Archives: Grand Street

Little Italy Isn’t Dead: The Legendary Ferrara

Periodically, there’s an article about how Little Italy is dead or dying. Yes, it’s more of a tourist destination and less of a neighborhood where Italian people live. There are still some Italians there, and there are Italian-American-owned businesses there. A recent article in the New York Times made me want to write a series on Little Italy Isn’t Dead and feature some of the businesses there.

Ferrara

Ferrara, a legendary Italian pastry shop, opened in 1892 by Enrico Scoppa and Antonio Ferrara.  The fifth-generation pastry shop gained fame when Enrico Caruso became a regular.  Ferrara’s became well-known for its cannoli and torrone.  Talk about being a kid in a candy store.  I take one look at the glass case of glistening glazed fruit atop an array of pastries in a myriad of colors, and I’m mesmerized.  The pastry case at Ferrara’s is a work of art.  When I talk to people who’ve never been to an Italian bakery, I show them pictures of Ferrara’s.  Everyone in my family will attest to Ferrara’s being the gold standard of New York Italian pastries.

Ferrara’s pastries

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Little Italy Isn’t Dead: Di Palo’s

Periodically, there’s an article about how Little Italy is dead or dying. Yes, it’s more of a tourist destination and less of a neighborhood where Italian people live. There are still some Italians there, and there are Italian-American-owned businesses there. A recent article in the New York Times made me want to write a series on Little Italy Isn’t Dead and feature some of the businesses there.

Di Palo’s

Concetta Di Palo and her husband, Luigi Santomauro, opened Di Palo’s in Little Italy in 1925 as a dairy. Concetta was from the Basilicata region of Italy. Now, in addition to ricotta and mozzarella, Di Palo’s carries a myriad of Italian grocery and specialty items. It is an overwhelming experience for the senses to see the hanging provolone cheese and prosciutto and salami and the variety of unique items on the shelves and in the refrigerated case. The shop is still family-owned today and a popular spot for foodies. It is like an old school deli, so be sure to take a number because it’s always crowded here.

Little Italy Isn’t Dead: Alleva Dairy, America’s Oldest Cheese Shop

Periodically, there’s an article about how Little Italy is dead or dying. Yes, it’s more of a tourist destination and less of a neighborhood where Italian people live. There are still some Italians there, and there are Italian-American-owned businesses there. A recent article in the New York Times made me want to write a series on Little Italy Isn’t Dead and feature some of the businesses there.

Alleva Dairy

In 1892, Francesco and Pina Alleva from Benevento, Italy, (not far from Naples) opened the first cheese shop in the United States. Alleva Dairy is known for its fabulous mozzarella and ricotta and its sandwiches. The Alleva family sold the business in 2014 to the late John “Cha Cha” Ciarcia and his wife, Karen King. Actor Tony Danza is also a co-owner of the store.

 

Little Italy Isn’t Dead: Piemonte Ravioli

Periodically, there’s an article about how Little Italy is dead or dying. Yes, it’s more of a tourist destination and less of a neighborhood where Italian people live. There are still some Italians there, and there are Italian-American-owned businesses there. A recent article in the New York Times made me want to write a series on Little Italy Isn’t Dead and feature some of the businesses there.

Piemonte Ravioli

Piemonte Ravioli was opened in 1920 by a Genoese immigrant with the last name of Piemonte. In 1955, Mario Bertorelli from Parma bought it. Today, it is run by him and his son, Flavio. The store has a plethora of fresh and dried pasta. They tell photographers James and Karla Murray in Store Front that they use the original recipes from the Piemonte family. They use cheese from Alleva Dairy, and they make their own pasta sauces from their family recipes. Piemonte is also housed in a landmarked building.

Little Italy Isn’t Dead: E. Rossi & Co.

Periodically, there’s an article about how Little Italy is dead or dying. Yes, it’s more of a tourist destination and less of a neighborhood where Italian people live. There are still some Italians there, and there are Italian-American-owned businesses there. A recent article in the New York Times made me want to write a series on Little Italy Isn’t Dead and feature some of the businesses there.

E. Rossi & Co.

E. Rossi & Co. is a Little Italy and New York institution. The third-generation store started out in 1910 as a music publisher and it used to be on the corner of Mulberry and Grand Streets. My family has been going here for generations. It’s always been cramped and stocked with a lot of tchotchke. Mostly, they carry kitchen items–all kinds–and some that are essential for Italians like cheese graters and wooden spoons. They also carry CDs, DVDs, religious articles and statues, aprons, T-shirts, dish towels, and much more. You’ll frequently find the friendly owner, Ernest Rossi, singing. The New York Times did a profile of him last year. He’ll go out of his way to help you find what you’re looking for, as he did for me, when I was looking for Italian-themed dish towels from various regions of Italy.

Neighborhood Watch: Little Italy’s Grand Street

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.

Museum

The Alleva Dairy for cheese and meat and other Italian grocery items and the Piemonte Ravioli Co. for pasta.

Alleva

Piemonte

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.

Rossi

Of course, no stop to Little Italy is complete without a visit to the famed pasticceria Ferrara.

Ferrara2

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.

Di Palo

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.

Church

For coal-oven pizza, try Lombardi’s on Spring and Mott Streets, the first pizzeria in the United States, opened in 1905.

Lombardi's pizza

Lombardi’s pizza

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