In the late 19th century it was common for immigrants coming to America to congregate within ethnic neighbourhoods. Many Italians ended up making their home in Lower Manhattan to recreate a little piece of Naples right in New York City. Little Italy was at one time a large, bustling neighbourhood. By the end of WWII, many residents started seeking out more spacious surroundings and began moving to the NYC suburbs. What once occupied a 50-foot block of Lower Manhattan, Little Italy today takes up a mere 3 blocks of Mulberry Street. Rest assured you’ll find this compact area loaded with plenty of attractions for city holidaymakers to enjoy.
Mangia, Mangia!! There are many attractions in Little Italy other than restaurants but by no means does that suggest you should tour the area on an empty stomach. Travellers will find many restaurants and cafes aggressively vying for their portion of the tourist industry. A few favourites among visitors are Umbertos’s Clam House, Il Cortile Restarante and Capri Restarante, known for their Chicken Parmesan. Great Italian restaurants can be found all over the city but visitors still flock to Little Italy for a one-of-a-kind experience.
St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral
Dating back to 1815, St. Patricks’s Old Cathedral is not only one of the area’s most historic buildings but NYC’s first Basilica. It’s referred to as St. Patrick’s “Old” Cathedral as St. Patrick’s Cathedral on 5th Avenue, built in 1879, is known as the “new” St. Patrick’s.
After many attempts to burn down the Cathedral during the mid-1800s when Roman Catholics were coming under attack, a brick wall surrounding the structure was constructed. Film Director, Martin Scorsese served as an Alter Boy at St. Patrick’s and the Cathedral is portrayed in many of his films.
Italian American Museum
This museum, located in the heart of Little Italy, gives visitors a chance to view historic memorabilia and rare documents. The museum also serves as a tribute to the achievements made by these Italian-Americans as well as their contributions to society.
Italian Specialty Shops
Visitors can bring a little bit of Italy home to their own “Cucina.” For the finest in Italian cheeses, Alleva Dairy is a popular attraction. Many visitors recommend the gourmet olive oils found in Di Pala’s. Those on the hunt for authentic homemade Ravioli should head over to Piemonte Ravioli. Stop into Ferrara Bakery and Cafe for what many consider the best cheesecake around.
San Gennara Festival
Those lucky enough to plan their holiday in September will be able to experience the tradition of the San Gennara Festival. The festival began as a one-day religious ceremony honouring the Patron St. of Naples. Today the celebration has grown to an eleven day festival of food, drink and merriment. It’s a must-do for anyone visiting the city during this time of year.
Some of the city’s trendiest shops and boutiques can be found in and around Little Italy. Many international designers have opened shops carrying everything from scarves and clothing to one-of-a-kind jewellery pieces. Shoppers can find luxury shoes, designer accessories and bohemian inspired wares.