Hankering for cannoli? Want to hear Sinatra while munching pizza? Some say the "old Brooklyn" of almost exclusively ethnic neighborhoods is rapidly becoming a matter of history. But Brooklyn's stronghold Italian neighborhoods, while diluted, have maintained a visible (and edible) Italian presence.
Typical Shops and Stores in Old Italian Brooklyn Neighborhoods
It's fun to visit a Brooklyn Italian neighborhood with an eye on what makes it feel, well, Italian. Start with shopping and eating. On the retail level, even Carroll Gardens, once a very tightly-knit Brooklyn Italian neighborhood that's been gentrified almost beyond recognition, still supports a number of traditional Italian stores born in the 20th century.
In exploring Italian neighborhoods in Brooklyn, here are some ethnically authentic shops that are fun to look for:
- Italian bakeries such as Bensonhurst's Villabate,
- Italian pork stores
- Italian ethnic food stores and pasta kingdoms such as or Queen Ann Ravioli Pastosa Ravioli in Bensonhurst or Esposito's in Carroll Gardens
- "red sauce" Italian restaurants such as Marco Polo Ristorante in Carroll Gardens
- bridal boutiques
- Italian clothing import stores, or shops selling traditional attire for communion.
A note on pizza: There's great pizza all over Brooklyn. You don't have to go to an Italian neighborhood to find it. But one of the best is L&B Spumoni Gardens in Bensonhurst.)
What Makes Communities in Italian Brooklyn Neighborhood?
Visitors to Bensonhurst or Dyker Heights can get the sense of the neighborhood in many ways, from the presence of private "men's clubs" to popular celebrations of Roman Catholic religious festivals, Italian-style. Weekend visitors may be treated to the occasional glimpse of a traditional wedding taking place in a local Roman Catholic church, or limos lined up in front of Italian-oriented wedding halls.
Shopping and food aside, Brooklyn's Italian neighborhoods are socially cohesive in ways that may not be visible to the casual tourist. In old Brooklyn Italian neighborhoods, there are informal support networks that work in many ways, including assistance to newly arrived Italian immigrants by established Italian-Americans. Brooklyn's Italian communities also support various Catholic private schools.
Community ties within the Brooklyn Italian-American community, while not necessarily visible to outsiders, can run strong.
Does the Mafia Still Operate Out of Brooklyn's Italian Neighborhoods?
Yes, apparently so. A 2011 FBI round up of Mafia leaders, including some individuals based in Brooklyn, suggests that elements of the Italian mob still operate from Brooklyn.
- G Esposito & Sons
- 357 Court Street
- Neighborhood: Carroll Gardens
- (718) 875-6863
- Pastosa Ravioli
- 7425 New Utrecht Avenue
- Neighborhood: Bensonhurst
- (718) 236-9615
- Villabate Bakery
- 7001 18th Avenue
- (718) 331-8430