Walking beside the narrow, cobblestoned streets beneath the fire escapes of turn-of-the-century tenements, you’re tempted by the sights, sounds and smells of Italian cuisine and culture emanating from the restaurants surrounding you at every step.
The heart of Little Italy is Mulberry Street. In the second half of the 19th century, NYC’s Italian immigration reached its peak, with several Italian parishes and an Italian-language newspaper. Today, there are fewer than 5,000 Italians living in Little Italy, but the heavenly aromas of the Italian bakeries and restaurants still waft around Mulberry and Grand Streets. The filmmaker Martin Scorsese shot the classic Mean Streets in this neighborhood, but today it couldn’t be friendlier or safer!
Landmarks include Old St. Patrick’s Church and the Police Building. It’s a popular neighborhood, filled with Old World atmosphere and many excellent eateries, among them Umberto’s Clam House, Da Nico, Casa Bella, and Original Vincent’s. Mid-September is a great time to visit for the most exciting annual event in the neighborhood, the ten-day Feast of San Gennaro. During this celebration, Mulberry Street is renamed Via San Gennaro and the shrines and relics of this saint are paraded through the streets – don’t be surprised to see the faithful pin dollar bills to the saint as he passes by – and the tantalizing smell of fried pastry and sausages fills the air. The crowds enjoy Italian foods of all types, rides, games, entertainment, and audience-participation singing and dancing. Tarantella, anyone?
Not so long ago, only a few note worthy shops dotted the landscape east of Broadway in Lower Manhattan. The neighborhood known as NoLIta, or North of Little Italy, seemed quaint, a living postcard of narrow streets, mom-and-pop stores, and reasonable rent. Then, during the mid 1990s, many designer refugees from celebrity-clogged, high-rent SoHo and TriBeCa fled eastward and turned tiny pizzerias and shoe repair shops into shops to purvey their creations. By 1999, a number of low-attitude boutiques blossomed on Mulberry, Mott, and Elizabeth Streets, offering gorgeous one-of-a kind, designer goodies – bejeweled and embroidered purses, rainbow colored shawls, hand-tooled boots, and custom-designed jewelry.
Little Italy is located in lower Manhattan and is easily accessible by subway, bus or car.
Little Italy Subways:
6 – Spring Street
N, R – Prince Street
F, V – Broadway Lafayette
From the East Side: Take the 6 subway downtown to the Spring Street station. Walk East 2 blocks to Mulberry Street. OR Take the M103 bus on Lexington Avenue down to Grand Street and walk West 3 blocks to Mulberry Street.
From the West Side: Take the N or R subways downtown to the Prince Street station. Walk East 3 blocks to Mulberry Street. OR Take the F or V subways downtown to the Broadway/Lafayette station and walk East 4 blocks to Mulberry Street and then walk south.