A Visitor’s Guide to NYC’s Little Italy Neighborhood

little italy

If there’s one thing that I can say for certain, it’s that:

I Bleed Marinara

My love of Italian food came in large part from my mother’s cooking, which would seem only natural, IF my mother weren’t 100% Irish… But if you think that ever stopped her from making some world-class meatballs, sausage and pepper sandwiches, or chicken parm, you’d be sadly mistaken mister!

Anyway, since moving to New York City, I can’t get my mom’s amazing cooking too often, but a man still has needs! In my two years of city-dwelling, I have managed to find a few places that satisfy me, but since I live so close to Little Italy now, I decided that this weekend I would explore that neighborhood a bit further.

Just to add some background, Little Italy used to be a significant residential neighborhood for ethnic Italians, but it has lately been encroached upon by Chinatown to the point where it exists along only a few city blocks between Canal and Broome (according to gonyc.about.com).

Il Piccolo Buffalo

Despite the area’s diminishing size, there are still some gems worth visiting. In my humble opinion, Il Piccolo Buffalo is real diamond in the rough. Unlike several other Little Italy restaurants, the staff here is exceptionally friendly and helpful, and the food is excellent. I went there with a lady friend of mine on Saturday, and in this instance, I got a pizza called the Piccolo Diavolo, which is basically a good spicy sausage pizza with hot peppers and capicola. Delicious! And considering the portions and service, very reasonably priced!

Ferrara Bakery and Cafe

Afterwards, we decided to get some coffee, so we headed over to a fairly well-known Italian bakery nearby, called Ferrara. This place is pretty upscale as far as bakeries go. Marble floors, hardwood facades, and suited waiters and waitresses that could easily go serve a high society ball or wedding without a wardrobe change, all come together to make this place a very classy experience. The prices are reflective of this, of course, but once you get a table you can sit and enjoy coffee, dessert or a nightcap in peace and comfort. One thing they most definitely don’t do at Ferrara is rush you, so take your time and relax!

The Bottom Line

The bottom line for Little Italy, in my experience, is this: choose your battles. A lot of the shops and restaurants here have degenerated into tourist traps – packed full of visitors wearing Kanken backpacks – that get you in the door with sweet promises of authenticity and deliciosity that ultimately don’t hold up under even the most casual expectations. With a little trial and error, however, you’ll find that there are a few places worth visiting, and may find yourself coming back again and again!

For any local who lives in New York City – or any visitor who happens to be passing there – Little Italy is the one neighborhood that you shouldn’t miss. Between the culture, history, and most importantly of all, food, it’s easy to see why this is one of the most well-respected and long-lasting areas of Manhattan.