Little Italy, NYC, Offers Food, History, and Shopping

Oct 17, 2019

Nestled in the midst of Chinatown, Tribeca, SoHo, Nolita, and the Lower East Side is Little Italy, a tiny neighborhood with a huge personality. This area was settled by Italian immigrants in the late 19th century and gained a reputation throughout the 20th century for being home to many members of the Mafia (John Gotti operated out of a social club in Little Italy in the late 1980s). However, the times have changed, and so has the neighborhood. Today, its streets are filled with countless kitschy tourist traps, but there are still a few authentic stops that are worth your time in Little Italy.

If you’re ready to travel back in Italian-American history (and maybe enjoy some homemade pasta puttanesca while you’re at it), the first thing to do is plan your trip to New York City. C&J Bus Lines makes the trip easy—our buses are spacious and our reclining seats are perfect for stretching out for a nap. Feel free to use our free Wi-Fi to catch up on emails or just to scroll through social media, and don’t forget to take advantage of our complimentary snacks and refreshments onboard! So kick back, relax, and let us do the driving for you.

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Crave-Worthy Restaurants

If there’s one thing you need to bring to Little Italy, NYC, it’s your appetite! This neighborhood has some of the best eats around the city. Whether you’re looking to dive into chicken parmigiana or hunt down the best panettone to bring home to your family, we’ve got you covered.

Caffé Palermo – When you arrive in the city, you’ll probably want to kickstart your day with a coffee and pastry. Head to Caffé Palermo, which is known for having the best cannoli in New York City (yes, it’s actually certified). There’s a fantastic selection of treats and gourmet coffee that will help you start your trip off on the right foot.

Aunt Jake’s – Looking for something more substantial than a pastry? Head over to Aunt Jake’s Mulberry Street location. They offer an extensive menu, complete with a “Create Your Own Pasta” option where you can pair pasta with a sauce of your choice. Or, stick to a more classic option and try the shrimp scampi, which is absolutely delicious.

Emilio’s Ballato – While this restaurant doesn’t take reservations, you can (probably) get a table if you arrive early. Celebrities, politicians, and famous musicians alike have all dined here. Emilio’s is known to serve up some of the best chicken parmigiana you’ll ever eat, so if you’re a fan, don’t miss this restaurant.

Umberto’s Clam House –  There’s only one place to go for seafood in Little Italy: Umberto’s. Start your meal with baked oysters and be sure to try their linguini with white clam sauce—it’s a beloved classic. The restaurant was previously located down the street, which was the site of the infamous 1972 murder of mobster “Crazy Joe” Gallo.

Da Nico Ristorante – If a day in Little Italy doesn’t sound complete without brick oven pizza, Da Nico’s is the place for you. We love the pizza vodka, which is topped with fresh mozzarella, basil, and a luscious vodka sauce. Also, don’t pass on their incredible antipasti menu, which features sautéed portabella mushrooms and fried calamari.

Shops That Aren’t Tourist Traps

Little Italy is brimming with shops that will sell you mugs that say “Mob Boss” or little Italian flag keychains (nothing wrong with that, but you’ll spend more time waiting in lines and bumping into tourists than enjoying yourself). There are a few places that offer authentic Italian groceries, handmade clothing, and more that are definitely worth a visit.

Mulberry Street Cigars – This shop sells hand-rolled cigars and has long attracted celebrities like Lionel Richie and Willem DaFoe with its high-quality products.

Clic – Browse everything from design and art books to home decor and original artworks in this chic shop on the outskirts of the neighborhood.

Di Palo’s Fine Foods – Take some Little Italy cuisine home with you: Di Palo’s sells amazing artisanal cheeses, cured meats, and other Italian groceries.

No. 6 – We love all of the colorful and unique clothing designs for sale at the No. 6 Store. They’re well known here for handmade clogs in all different colors and styles.

Exciting Historical Stops

Do you want to dig into the history of this neighborhood? Then you’re in the right place! Little Italy is easy to tour on foot, as it is a relatively small neighborhood. While you’re there, these are a few places to see.

Da Gennaro Restaurant – The food here is great, but the history is (almost) better. This is the site where Umberto’s Clam House once resided, and where mobster Joe Gallo was killed by rival mob members while he bought a morning snack. This was one of the most talked about mob hits of the 1970s, so it’s a great stop for history aficionados.

Alleva Dairy – This is America’s oldest cheese shop, and walking inside is like entering a time capsule. The original tin ceiling from 1892 persists and prosciuttos hang from it, while patrons peruse fresh mozzarella and scamorza in the glass counter. Cheese lovers must go!

Italian American Museum – Currently amidst a redevelopment project that will improve its facilities, the Italian American Museum aims to “celebrate modern-day Italian culture with exhibitions and programs that feature artists, authors and thinkers from Italy.” This is a necessary stop for anyone who wants to learn more about the neighborhood’s rich history and roots in Italy.

Ready to head into the city to explore all of Little Italy’s amazing offerings? Your first step is to check out C&J’s bus schedules and buy your tickets! That way, you don’t have to worry about driving and you can snooze after an amazing Italian meal in New York City.

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