Puglia Ristorante, New York Little Italy Ferrara Bakery, New York Little Italy Mulberry Street, New York's Little Italy

 

I'm a New York City native and I enjoyed “rediscovering” Manhattan's Little Italy for this article. Everyone in New York will tell you that Little Italy is not the place to find great Italian food, and I have to agree. Unfortunately, the area is referred to as Little Italy more out of respect and nostalgia than as a reflection of true ethnic population. The restaurants are better than average, but still worse than some gems in Brooklyn, Staten Island and yes, even the Bronx. For non-New Yorkers: NY's real Little Italy is the Bronx. Yes, you read that correctly. 

But, those other locations can't touch the atmosphere of Manhattan's Little Italy (except for maybe the Bronx). Manhattan was the logical starting point for many Italian American families. Once the boats from Italy arrived in New York harbor, (after the passengers were processed at Ellis Island) passengers were dropped off in lower Manhattan. As was the case with many immigrants, the Italians made their way to the “ghetto” which was located a few blocks away from Canal street. Most Italians found their new homes to be tenement buildings with poor sanitation and hygiene.

The Italians worked hard to transform their new home into an American area with a uniquely Italian twist. Pastry shops, bakeries, and grocers sprung up throughout while pushcart vendors sold fruits and vegetables. The Italians prospered in the area, and began to flourish as a whole, rather quickly.

The “dominance” of Italians in NY's Little Italy was short lived, due in large part to Italian prosperity which caused them to move out of the tenements and into areas such as Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens. As a result, the Little Italy of today is a shadow of its former self. However, the remnants are great reminders of what once was. The iconic status of places like Ferrara's Pasticceria and Banca Stabile let everyone know that NY's Little Italy was just the beginning of the Italian success story in America.

 


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