Once the sprawling home of much of New York City's Italian population, Little Italy has become more of a bustling tourist destination than a residential neighborhood. The neighborhood previously spread from Canal Street north to Houston, but now its borders are limited to about four city blocks.
Little Italy is worth visiting for the opportunity to enjoy delicious imported Italian specialties and to see the Old St. Patrick's Cathedral. You will also glimpse some of the restaurants and bars made famous by gangsters and members of the Rat Pack. Mulberry Street is probably the neighborhood's most famous street.
Every September the neighborhood hosts the San Gennaro festival. It is one of New York City's most popular street festivals.
Little Italy has set boundaries. There is Canal Street on the South, Broome Street on the North, Baxter Street on the West, and Elizabeth Street on the East.
Little Italy is easily reachably by public transportation. You can take the 6 train to Spring Street Station, the N or the R trains to Prince Street Station, and the F train to Broadway/Lafayette Station. You'll have to walk a few blocks from the subway, but you'll know when you're there by the Italian flags and the bakeries and restaurants.
Where to Eat
The following is a list of Little Italy's most famous food destinations.
- Umberto's Clam House - Opened in 1972, today this seafood restaurant is run by the family's second generation
- Da Nico Ristorante - This is also a family operated restaurant that has been open since 1993. Famous New Yorkers have walked through the door from The Yankees to Mayor Giuliani.
- IL Cortile - This restaurant has been around for 40 years, and it serves authentic Italian food in a beautiful setting. You'll find exposed brick and lots of greenery. There is also outdoor seating if you're in the neighborhood on a beautiful day.
- Ferrara Bakery & Cafe - This casual eatery is known for one thing: it's desserts. Since 1892 New Yorkers have flocked there for the speciality cakes and the gelato.
- Other choices: Angelos of Mulberry Street, Grotto Azura, Benito II
What to See
While many people think Little Italy is all about the food, it is also a stunning neighborhood. Beautiful six-story walk-up buildings housed the neighborhood's Italian community, and they are still visible on the streets. The neighborhood also has a few attractions not to miss.
- The Police Building - Built in 1909, this building was the main police headquarters for over 60 years, but it is now co-op apartments. Go there and imagine yourself on the other side of the Goodfellas.
- Old Church of St. Patrick - This was the original St. Patrick's Cathedral but is now a parish church. You can still see the beautiful details on the exterior and interior of the building.
- Italian American Museum - Housed in the former Banca Stabile building, the museum is dedicated to sharing and preserving the cultural history and experience of Italian Americans
You can also tour Little Italy with professional guides. Some good options include the Little Italy / NoLIta & Five Points Walking Tour with Alfred Pommer; Little Italy and Lower East Side with Savory Sojourns; and walking tours with the Museum of Chinese in America.
Don't just eat your way through Little Italy. Bring some authentic Italian goods home with you from these store.
- Alleva Dairy - The oldest Italian cheese store in America, Alleva has been operating since 1892 and still serves cheeses hard to find anywhere else.
- DiPalo's Fine Foods - Since first opening its doors in 1910, DiPalo has offered delicious imported goods including olive oil, pasta and cheeses.
- Il Coccio Italian Ceramics - This small store features imported ceramics from Sicily.
- Piemonte Ravioli - Established in 1920, the Little Italy retail shop sells fresh pasta made daily at their warehouse in Woodside, Queens
Feast of San Gennaro
In 1926 the Feast of San Gennaro was a religious holiday celebrated by immigrants who had just arrived to America. Now it's a huge Italian-American festival held every September that attracts people from all over the world.
The center of the action is Mulberry Street. You'll find street vendors, games, parades, people in elaborate outfits. All the restaurants are open, and you'll find merry shop owners ushering you inside. You can find tasty Italian treats on the street as well. It's a special event not to miss.
Find out more with this guide.