Italian Culture Week: Little Italy
We couldn’t talk about Italian culture without bringing up Little Italy,
a mainstay of downtown New York City. It’s the best place for authentic
Italian food and has a fascinating history. We put together a few facts
about this interesting area.
Little Italy is located in the lower part of Manhattan. It originated as
Mulberry Bend, known for its large population of Italians. Presently, Little
Italy consists of three blocks on Mulberry St. In 1910, Little Italy had over
10,000 Italians crammed into tenements. Presently, it is comprised of about
60 or so cafes and restaurants that cater primarily to tourists. At one point,
powerful members of the Italian mafia operated out of this hood.
New York Magazine recently published an article titled, “Arrivederci, Little
Italy,” which touched on the city’s efforts to save the neighborhood from
becoming a ‘kitschy’ tourist trap.
Director Martin Scorsese grew up on Elizabeth St. Both his parents
emigrated from Italy and were garment workers in the area. In multiple
interviews, he’s said that the neighborhood was very rough back then;
not at all what it’s like today. DiPalo’s Food Shop on Mott St is one of
Scorsese’s favorite places to get delicious downtown food.
The Italian American Museum is located on Mulberry St, in the heart of
Little Italy. It was once a bank for Italian immigrants and served as a link
between them and their relatives in Italy. Brooklyn photojournalist Janine
Coyne currently has an exhibit on display, where photographs of her trip to
Naples can be seen. There’s also a small gift shop with fun, educational
souvenirs for tourists and native New Yorkers alike.
If you’re up for getting a true sense of Little Italy, head to San Gennaro’s
Feast. It takes place at the Precious Blood Church and draws over a million
people in the span of 11 days.