It’s fitting that the neighborhood’s name is Little Italy because It’s been getting smaller for decades. The Italian immigrants that flooded New York City and built the vibrant ethnic enclave in the 1860s and 1880s eventually left for greener pastures, assimilating into other parts of the city or suburbs. The disappearance of Little Italy is a sad story as far as neighborhoods go, but it’s one that should be told.
Little Italy once spanned 50 square blocks and represented the biggest population of Italian immigrants in America. But in recent years, it’s been squeezed by the growth of Chinatown and SoHo and muscled from the rebranding of other neighborhoods like NoHo and NoLIta. In fact, NoLita was the culprit that cut the neighborhood in two. Little Italy’s boundaries may vary depending upon who you ask. Today it’s down to just a few blocks along Mulberry Street.
One of the best ways to experience Little Italy is through its food. Take your pick from mom-and-pop markets, meat and cheese shops, or authentic sit-down restaurants that offer the very best in Italian cuisine.
Every September (since 1926), the neighborhood hosts the Feast of San Gennaro, which celebrates the patron Saint of Naples Italy. 11 days of food, colorful parades, music performances, and more food. The aroma of zeppole and grilled sausage can be smelt for blocks. Try planning your visit around this festive time. It’s well worth it.