Wandered into Little Italy a few weeks ago. It’s a bit of the same as it’s ever been and a lot like it never was, except maybe in movies and TV and what we expect of it. Part history, part fantasy. We had a brilliant cannoli at Cafe Roma though, along with an exquisite piece of Italian cheesecake, which might be the most important thing.
The streets are narrow and cluttered with cars and people and lights and banners waving in the air, trying to grab your attention. Despite the cold winter day, vendors and restaurateurs beckoned as the aromas of a few thousand years of tradition wafted by. Classic restaurants, straight out of 1952, or maybe Goodfellas or The Sopranos: This guy was determined that we were going to eat here… no discussion! Would you say no to him? Really?
While I enjoy al fresco dining, there was snow on the ground! This old place probably hosted a speakeasy back in the day.
This guy with the accordion however, as enchanting as could be! Did not notice the creepy dude peeking out over his right shoulder until I got home, though. And who could resist Umberto’s Clam House??? Or the charm of statues of Native Americans guarding the entrance to the cigar shop? And of course, it wouldn’t be complete without a slightly menacing corner, with a couple of slightly unsavoury characters strolling by.
But despite the sentiment, Little Italy has all but disappeared, mostly gobbled up by Chinatown and SoHo and areas that have just stopped being Little Italy and become something else.
Kinda sad, kinda just how it is. Kinda weird being old enough that history is not something relegated to old books and movies. I remember how it used to be and see how it is now. And it’s not that I think it should be any different than it is – I just marvel at what has changed.
And if Little Italy is transformed, then I suppose I am too…