Little Italy and Nolita guide: The best of the neighborhoods

Little Italy and Nolita add up to prime shopping and dining territory, but which places stand out? Here’s our guide to the best restaurants, bars and shops.

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Feast of San Gennaro

Feast of San Gennaro Photograph: Phyllis B. Dooney


Immigrants from Naples and Sicily began moving to Little Italy in the 1880s. The area once stretched from Canal to Houston Streets, between Lafayette Street and the Bowery, but these days a strong Italian presence can only truly be observed on the blocks immediately surrounding Mulberry Street. As families prospered in the 1950s, they moved to the outer boroughs and suburbs; the area has long been shrinking in the face of Chinatown expanding from the south and migrating boutiques from Nolita. But ethnic pride remains: Italian-Americans flood in from across the city during the 11-day Feast of San Gennaro, and there are still a number of good Italian restaurants in the area.

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Of course, Little Italy is also the site of several notorious Mafia landmarks. The brick-fronted store now occupied by a shoe boutique (247 Mulberry St between Prince and Spring Sts) was once the Ravenite Social Club, where Mafia kingpin John Gotti made his deals until his arrest in 1990. Mobster Joey Gallo was shot and killed in 1972 while celebrating his birthday at Umberto’s Clam House, which has since moved around the corner.

Nolita (North of Little Italy) became a magnet for pricey boutiques and trendy eateries in the 1990s. In particular, Elizabeth, Mott and Mulberry Streets between Houston and Spring Streets are home to hip shops.

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