Little Italy was once the home to much of New York City’s Italian population. In the past, Little Italy spread from Canal Street north to Houston, but now its borders are limited to just a couple of city blocks. Today, New York City’s Italian population living in Little Italy has dwindled to fewer than 5,000 residents. The area has become more of a tourist destination than a residential neighborhood. Yet, Little Italy is still worth visiting for delicious imported Italian groceries and fine Italian dining.
Mulberry Street and Grand Street
Chinatown, has encroached on much of Little Italy, leaving very few Italian streets left. However, Mulberry Street and Grand Street remain Little Italy’s two main streets. These two streets contain some of New York City’s best Italian restaurants and Italian grocery stores.
Feast of San Gennaro
The Feast of San Gennaro (Fiesta di San Gennaro) is an annual celebration of Saint Gennaro, the Patron Saint of Naples, who was martyred in 305 A.D. The Feast of San Gennaro is the most exciting annual event in Little Italy. New York City’s first feast took place on September 19, 1926, when newly arrived immigrants from Naples settled along Mulberry Street, and decided to continue the celebration that began in Italy years before. Beginning on September 19th and continuing for nine days, the festival features food stands everywhere, Italian music, lots of people and a great atmosphere. During this celebration, Mulberry Street is renamed Via San Gennaro and the shrines and relics of this saint are paraded through the streets.
Little Italy Restaurants
It’s no surprise that NYC’s Little Italy contains some of the best Italian restaurants in New York City. Once in Little Italy, it’s hard to miss the red, green and white decorations that make up little Italy.