In contrast to Chinatown, Little Italy—at its zenith between 1890 and 1924—is but a shadow of its former self. Only about 10 percent of the neighborhood’s residents are of Italian ancestry, and the heart of its dining and shopping district has shrunk to just three short blocks along Mulberry Street.
Most of what is left of Little Italy is along Mulberry Street just above Canal Street. Here, Italian restaurants and cafés line the street, with tables and striped umbrellas set out in warm weather. It’s all very touristy, but it’s also a lot of fun, with mustachioed waiters gesticulating wildly like caricatures of themselves, and lots and lots of bright, garish colors.
At the intersection of Mulberry and Grand Streets is a mother lode of great Italian food stores, including the Italian Food Center (186 Grand St., 212/925-2954), stocked with a wide variety of wares; Alleva Dairy (188 Grand St., 212/226-7990), said to sell two tons of cheese a week; and Piemonte Homemade Ravioli (190 Grand St., 212/226-0475). Rossi & Co. (191 Grand St., 212/966-6640) is a variety store where you can buy everything from a Mussolini T-shirt to opera CDs.
© Avalon Travel and Sascha Zuger from Moon New York State, 5th Edition