the Rich History of Little Italy, NYC

Mulberry Street Circa 1900
PC Taylor Davidson
Little Italy is a vibrant and historic neighborhood located in Lower Manhattan, New York City. Its roots can be traced back to the late 19th century when large waves of Italian immigrants arrived in the United States, seeking better opportunities and a new life. Little Italy became their home, where they established a strong community and left an indelible mark on the city's overall cultural fabric.

The early Italian immigrants came mainly from the southern regions of Italy, such as Sicily and Naples. They faced numerous challenges upon their arrival, including language barriers and limited job prospects. However, their strong sense of community and determination helped them overcome these obstacles.

Initially, Little Italy encompassed a larger area, stretching from Canal Street to Houston Street and from Lafayette Street to the Bowery. Mulberry Street quickly became the heart of the neighborhood, with its bustling markets, shops, and restaurants catering to the Italian-American community. The streets were filled with the sights, sounds, and smells of Italian cuisine and culture. The neighborhood occupies less space than it once did but its heart and soul remain unchanged.

The residents of Little Italy built a close-knit community, preserving their traditions and language. They established social clubs, religious societies, and mutual aid organizations that provided support and assistance to fellow Italian immigrants. Churches such as the Church of the Most Precious Blood and Old St. Patrick's Cathedral became important institutions in the neighborhood, serving as focal points for religious and social activities.

In Manhattan’s Little Italy, immigrants from specific areas flocked together; the Sicilians congregated on Elizabeth Street, the Genovese on Baxter Street, while the Northern Italians occupied Bleecker Street. Strolling through Little Italy in the early 1900’s, you would experience a variety of languages, aromas, cuisines and traditions that varied street by street, just as it did city by city in Italy.

One of the most iconic events associated with Little Italy is the Feast of San Gennaro, which dates back to the early 20th century. This annual celebration honors Saint Januarius, the patron saint of Naples. The feast includes religious processions, live music, carnival games, and, most notably, a wide array of Italian food stalls. It continues to attract visitors from all over the city and beyond, becoming a symbol of the neighborhood's rich heritage.

Despite challenges and changes, Little Italy remains an important cultural and culinary destination in New York City. Its narrow streets are still lined with Italian restaurants, pastry shops, and cafes, attracting tourists and locals alike who come to savor authentic Italian cuisine. The neighborhood has also become a backdrop for several movies and television shows, further cementing its place in popular culture.
While the Italian-American population in Little Italy has diminished over time, the neighborhood continues to celebrate its heritage. Organizations such as the Italian American Museum and the Little Italy Restoration Association work tirelessly to preserve the neighborhood's history and promote Italian culture.

Little Italy stands as a testament to the struggles and triumphs of the Italian immigrants who helped shape New York City. Its rich history and vibrant atmosphere make it a beloved destination, keeping the spirit of Italy alive in the heart of the Big Apple.

The Feast of San Gennaro is in it's celebrating it's 97th year in 2023! 9/14/23 - 9/24/23. Plan a return visit to join in the "Feast of all Feasts." For more information visit
Broome & Mulberry St. circa late 1800's
PC: National Archives and Records Administration
Mulberry Bend Clam Sellers circa 1900

Copyright © 2024. Pasta Boss. All rights reserved.

149 Mulberry St, New York, NY 10013
Call us at: 646.918.6994