by Kathryn Hall
New York City's Little Italy Neighborhood may not cover as much ground as it did in the last century but it's still the best place in NYC for Italian dining.
Can't get enough cannoli?
Does the thought of pasta quicken your pulse?
Then your New York trip itinerary should include a tour of Little Italy.
Along Mulberry Street, and between Grand and Canal streets, you will find more Italian eateries than you could ever hope to patronize in a single trip. Your taste buds may demand you extend your stay.
In addition to the restaurants and cafes, there are also a few specialty groceries for all of your at-home Italian baking needs.
True, the Italian population has long dwindled away and the area is sandwiched between the ever-expanding Chinatown and the fashion boutique-filled NoLIta (North of Little Italy).
You are more likely to stumble into an Ohio-American than an Italian-American along the crowded, touristy strip.
But you will know for sure where you are. The green, white, and red parking meters will be your guide.
Today, it really is Little Italy, quite a change from its heyday last century. The influx of Italian immigrants began in the late 1800s when unemployment and poverty in their home country forced the move.
Between 1860 and 1880, 68,500 Italians moved to New York. By 1920, 391,000 Italians lived in the city. Hometown loyalties divided Little Italy into regionally-specific neighborhoods. The Northern Italians settled along Bleeker Street while the Geonese claimed Baxter Street. Those from Western Sicily grouped themselves together along Elizabeth Street.
While only a few thousand Italian-Americans call Little Italy home today, visitors continue to flock to the area to take in a little edible Old World charm.
At no time of the year is this more true than in mid-September during the annual Feast of San Gennaro. More than one million people attend the salute to the patron saint of Naples which comes complete with free music, parades, a Mass, and a candlelit procession.
And a cannoli-eating contest, of course.
You're likely to find streets closed to vehicle traffic and a festive atmosphere throughout the warm months particularly on the weekends.
Memorial Day and Fourth of July musical groups and contests liven up the annual Sorrento Cheese Summer in Little Italy. Part of Mulberry Streetfrom Canal Street to Broome streetis closed on weekends with food vendors lining the street from Memorial Day weekend to Columbus Day weekend.
Other US cities with Italian Neighborhoods include San Francisco's North Beach and San Diego's Little Italy.
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