Throughout the late 1800s, as Italian immigrants came to the Manhattan area, they introduced traditions, food and language. The heritage remains evident today — the streets of Little Italy are bordered by restaurants with red-and – white tablecloths selling Italian foods. Among the venerable businesses still operating today, the Di Palo cheese store and Ferrara Bakery & Café, known for its cannoli and espresso. A yearly San Gennaro festival, one of NYC ‘s oldest street shows, is celebrated with food and festivity each September by the patron saint of Naples.
Little Italy (Piccola Italia), once known for its significant Italian Americans and the immigrants of Italy, is a district in the Northern part of New York, Lower Manhattan. It is bordered by Tribecca and Soho to the west, Chinatown to the south, Bowery on the east, Nolita to the lower east.
Little Italy on Mulberry Street stretched to the far south from Worth Street, Houston Street to the north, Lafayette Street to the west, and Bowery to the east. Mulberry Street is now only three blocks north. As Mulberry Bend, Little Italy was born. During the time of the “End of 19th century immigrants settled in ethnic communities,” Jacob Riis identifies Mulberry Bend as “the foul heart of New York’s slums.” Consequently, ‘mass immigration from Italy in the 1880s led in the lower Manhattan to the large settlement of Italian immigrants. The results of such migration had created an “influx of Italian immigrants” which had “led to the commercial gathering of their dwelling and business.
Once, Little Italy was like an island village of Neapolitan roots, reconstructed on these coastlines with languages, traditions, and financial and cultural institutions,” said Bill Tonelli, New York magazine. Little Italy wasn’t the bigger neighborhood of Italy at New York as East Harlem was a bigger Italian city. In 1910, Little Italy had about 10,000 Italians; that was the highest in the population of the Italian community. Tonelli said Little Italy “was probably the city’s poorest Italian area.
Many Lower East Side residents relocated to Brooklyn, Staten Island, East Long Island, and New Jersey in the wake of the Second World War. After the United States the number of Chinese immigrants increased. As a result of the 1965 Immigration Act, immigration limits were lifted, Manhattan Chinatown grew south of Little Italy. Tonelli says in 2004: “you can go back 30 years and find news reports about Chinatown ‘s growth and the disappearance of Little Italy.” “You can go back 30 years.
Dozens of restaurants serving authentic Italian cuisine were in Little Italy, but eight restaurants were closed between March 2013 and March 2014. Sorrento Lactalis has been organizing cultural community activities in Little Italy since 2004.
Originally a one-day religious commemoration was the Feast of Saint Gennaro. The new arrival of immigrants from Naples was introduced in September 1926. In Manhattan’s Little Italy the Italian immigrants gathered along Mulberry Street for a festival of San Gennaro as Patron of Naples. The Feast of San Gennaro is an 11-day, broad road fair that runs on Mulberry Street from Houston to Canal Streets each September. The festival honors the Italian and American culture each year. In 1995, the professional manager of the community group created to bear responsibility for the San Gennaro Festival was Mort Berkowitz. Since then, Berkowitz has been engaged in many Little Italy leisure activities like autumn, Carnevale, Columbus Day and Christmas.
The interesting aspect is how Ethno-Tourism – not only Italian Americans but people who want to see authentic urban villages – preserves these communities,” said Richard Alba, sociologist and professor at University of Albany, SUNY.