12 Things to Do in Little Italy NYC: A Neighborhood Guide 🤌
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When Italian immigrants arrived in Lower Manhattan in the late 1800s, they introduced their rich culture to the city. Over the years, their neighborhood evolved to what we now know as Little Italy in NYC, or as Italians would call it, “Piccola Italia.”
To this day, Little Italy still retains its charm and character and is home to some of the best Italian restaurants and bakeries in the city. Plus, there are plenty of things to do in Little Italy NYC, from shopping to sightseeing. In this guide, we’ll explore the best activities this neighborhood has to offer. So put on your comfy shoes and get ready to explore!
Skip to the attraction you’re most interested in: Ferrara Bakery – Little Italy Sign – IL Cortile Ristorante – Audrey Hepburn Mural – Da Nico Ristorante – Feast of San Gennaro & Cannoli Eating Contest – St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral – Di Palo’s Fine Foods – Mulberry Street – Lombardi’s Pizzeria – Italian Mafia: Real-Life Events and Movie Locations – Christmas in New York Store
Ferrara Bakery in NYC is a must-stop spot for anyone visiting Little Italy. This historic bakery has been serving up mouthwatering Italian pastries and desserts since 1892. Originally, Ferrara Bakery in NYC started out as Café Ferrara, America’s first pasticceria and espresso bar.
If you’re looking for something savory, try their homemade lasagna. Or, if you have a sweet tooth, go for the delicious pastries Ferrara Bakery is popular for: cannoli or tiramisu. No matter what you choose, you’re sure to leave Ferrara Bakery in NYC with a full stomach and a smile on your face. Want to visit? You can find Ferrara Bakery on Grand Street, between Mulberry and Mott Streets.
Little Italy Sign
In the heart of Little Italy, you can find a gem that has been carefully preserved for generations: the Little Italy sign which welcomes visitors to this historic neighborhood.
There are actually two “Welcome to Little Italy” signs: the most popular one right above Mulberry Street and Broome Street and then there’s a second one between Hester Street and Mott Street. In case you want to take a photo of it, or in front of it, we recommend visiting the neighborhood in the evening hours as the signs light up at night.
No visit to Little Italy would be complete without indulging in some authentic Italian food. Among the most highly rated things to do in Little Italy NYC is the Italian restaurant IL Cortile (“the courtyard”), which opened back in 1975.
Visitors are not only making reservations at IL Cortile because of the high-quality Italian dishes or the extensive wine list – they also flock in for the overall dining experience. The restaurant’s dining room has high ceilings, exposed brick walls, Roman sculptures, flowers everywhere, and a glass-enclosed garden. The atmosphere is casual and relaxed, yet elegant, making it a great place to enjoy a good meal with friends. IL Cortile is definitely a top choice for anyone looking for a great Italian restaurant in Little Italy.
Audrey Hepburn Mural
There are many hidden murals throughout New York that you can admire, but there’s one mural in particular that should definitely be on your list of things to do in Little Italy, NYC: the Audrey Hepburn mural.
In 2013, world-renowned artist Tristan Eaton created this stunning mural on the corner of Broome and Mulberry Streets. It depicts Hepburn in her iconic role as Holly Golightly in the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s – a beautiful tribute to one of Hollywood’s best actresses. The mural is one of many public artworks created by Eaton, and it has become a popular tourist destination in New York. Don’t miss out on it while you’re in Little Italy!
Da Nico Ristorante
Of course, there are plenty of things to do in Little Italy, New York… especially plenty of restaurants to choose from. That’s why we’re listing a couple of restaurants in this guide. It just wouldn’t be fair to leave the Da Nico Ristorante out of this list.
The Da Nico Ristorante, founded in 1993, is famous for their flavorful homemade Italian dishes that derived from authentic family recipes like spaghetti carbonara and chicken parmigiana. The food is reasonably priced and the portions are generous. Plus point: on a nice day you can opt to eat outside in their cute little backyard garden.
Many celebrities wine and dine at the Da Nico Ristorante as well – former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani, once said it’s his favorite Italian restaurant! So, keep your eyes open while you’re at Da Nico (we know it’s not easy with all the delicious food), maybe you’ll spot a celebrity.
Feast of San Gennaro & Cannoli Eating Contest
In case you’re visiting New York in September, the Feast of San Gennaro should be on top of your list of things to do in Little Italy NYC. The festivities take place every year, usually during the second half of September, and last for eleven days. Save the date: the Feast of San Gennaro 2024 runs from September 12 through September 22.
Primarily, the Feast of San Gennaro is held in honor of San Gennaro, the patron saint of Naples, and to celebrate Italian heritage and culture with food, music, and entertainment. Visitors can enjoy traditional Italian dishes such as calzones and cannoli, as well as live performances by musicians and dancers.
Highlight of the festivities is the Grand Procession which takes place in the afternoon hours on the last Saturday of the festival. San Gennaro’s statue, right out of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, is carried through the streets of Little Italy for everyone to see. Make sure to be part of the procession!
Holy Cannoli (Honorable Mention)
Of course, the Feast of San Gennaro 2024 wouldn’t be complete without cannolis. And how do you match Italian culture with American culture? Host a cannoli eating contest! The annual competition is a highly anticipated event and is celebrating its 26th anniversary in 2024. The rules are simple: eat as many cannoli as you can in six minutes (record so far: Wayne Algenio – 33 cannolis!). The winner not only gets bragging rights, but also the title “Cannoli King of NY”, and a $100 cash prize.
Be sure to swing by the Feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy while you’re visiting in September and if you get a chance, check out the cannoli eating contest. It’s an experience you won’t soon forget!
St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral
St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, designed by Joseph-François Mangin and built in 1815, is one of the oldest Catholic parish churches in the city and the former cathedral of the Archdiocese of New York. It was designated a New York City landmark in 1966. Because of its rich history and beautiful Gothic Revival architecture, St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral is one of the top things to do in Little Italy, NYC.
The official address is 263 Mulberry St, however, its primary entrance is located on Mott Street. Masses are taking place Sunday through Friday around noon and Saturdays at 5 PM.
Di Palo’s Fine Foods
If you’re looking for authentic Italian food and imported Italian groceries, go to Di Palo’s Fine Foods on Grand Street. The family-owned shop opened in 1925 and is now operated by the family’s fourth generation. Palo’s is best known for their wide selection of cheeses, cured and cooked meats (try their Mortadella with Pistachios!), homemade sauces, fresh pasta, and many more Italian goodies.
Di Palo’s is the perfect place to find all your Italian staples, as well as some unique and hard-to-find items. Looking for a quick snack or a full-blown meal? Di Palo’s is sure to have something to tantalize your taste buds.
Whether you’re only checking off one or many of the things to do in Little Italy NYC, it’s guaranteed that you’ll come across Mulberry Street. After all, this vibrant and colorful street is the heart of Little Italy! Mulberry Street is lined with cafes, restaurants, and shops, and is always lively with people.
Make sure to stroll down Mulberry Street while you’re visiting Little Italy and enjoy a cup of coffee or grab a slice of pizza on the way. Good to know: The southern end of Mulberry Street leads you directly into Chinatown.
New Yorkers love to debate where you can find the best pizza in the city. If you ask a local where you should grab a pizza in Little Italy, chances are they will recommend Lombardi’s. The pizzeria has been serving up fresh, authentic pies since 1905, and it remains a favorite among locals and visitors alike. The secret to Lombardi’s success is its use of only the freshest ingredients, which are sourced from local suppliers, that give the pizzas a unique flavor that can’t be replicated anywhere else.
Another reason why you should grab a delicious smoky-crusted coal oven baked pizza at Lombardi’s: it is recognized as the first pizzeria in the United States!
Italian Mafia: Real-Life Events and Movie Locations
While many restaurants that were frequented by organized crime members do not exist anymore, you can still visit corners in Little Italy where real mafia events took place. So, if you’re looking for things to do in Little Italy NYC that have something to do with the Italian mafia, here are some great places to visit.
Remember John Gotti, boss of the Gambino family? In the late 80s and early 90s he used to spend a lot of time at the Ravenite Social Club, a popular mob hangout which later turned into a storefront (it’s now a men’s clothing store). Joe Gallo, also known as “Crazy Joe”, was shot at Umbertos Clam House while celebrating his 43rd birthday in 1972. The restaurant still operates today, so make sure to check it out.
Little Italy’s streets are also featured in many mobster movies and series. Of course, many Godfather movie locations can be found here. For example, if you visit 137 Mott Street today, you’re finding a Chinese Pharmacy, but in the Godfather movie back in 1972 this used to be a fruit stand in front of which Don Corleone was almost assassinated. Godfather II features the procession at the Feast of San Gennaro during which young Vito Corleone assassinates local mobster Don Fanucci.
Last but not least, our favorite mafia television series, The Sopranos, was also filmed in parts in Little Italy. For example, the Mulberry Street Bar was picked as the location for the Averna Social Club – main hangout spot for the Lupertazzi crime family, including their underboss Johnny Sack. The owners of the bar are proud that their location is frequently selected for scenes in various mafia movies and series, that’s why they display the restaurants’ show appearances in their windows on small printouts.
Christmas in New York Store
Here’s one of the most unique things to do in Little Italy NYC: you can visit the North Pole at the year-round Christmas in New York flagship store in Little Italy! On two floors you can find all the Christmas decorations you need… from nutcrackers, to gingerbread houses and New York themed ornaments.
It’s also a fun place to visit with children as you can find animated props throughout the whole store. And in case you’re visiting in July and you want to cool down, there’s an ice cream shop on the lower level.
As you can tell by now, whether you’re looking for a delicious meal or a fun afternoon activity, this neighborhood has something for everyone. And we hope that our list of top 12 things to do in Little Italy NYC helped you plan your trip.
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