One of the best parts of Little Italy? You guessed it: its food.
When Italian immigrants first arrived in the U.S., they had to make do with the ingredients they had on hand. Restaurant owners were also looking to cater to American palates. Traditional Italian recipes slowly transformed, and the cuisine became the hybrid Italian-American one it is now.
While some food items found in Little Italy are traditional and can be found in Italy, others are specific to North America.
When the food retailer Eataly first opened in the Flatiron district back in 2010, Little Italy’s business owners were definitely not pleased. They began losing the remainder of their Manhattan clientele, who were increasingly sourcing their mozzarella and olive oil from the 50,000-square-foot food emporium instead.
But Little Italy continues to be a spot for Italian fare. Each year, the famous Feast of San Gennaro spills across the district — celebrating the life of Saint Januarius, the patron saint of Naples — with piles and piles of sweets and sizzling sausages.
Besides pizza, pasta, calzone, gelato, and cheese, here are some of the foods you’ll likely come across when exploring the festival’s many stalls:
- Sausage and peppers: a trifecta of Italian pork sausage, bell peppers, and onions served in a sandwich bun, and one of the festival’s absolute bestsellers
- Zeppole: originating from Italy’s Campania region, these deep-fried dough balls incite nostalgic carnival memories
- Cannoli: the famous Sicilian pastry is made up of a fried dough shell that is stuffed with sweet ricotta cream
- Arancini: staples in Sicily and New York alike, ****these ****baseball-sized rice balls are coated with bread crumbs and are deep-fried
- Parms: the tried-and-trusted parm takes on many forms: meatball, chicken, or eggplant
- Torrone: a nougat and a traditional Italian Christmas treat, the seasonal dessert’s name references the “Il Torrione” tower in the Northern Italian city of Cremona
- Braciole: beef roulades that are stuffed with parmesan and bread crumbs and then braised in tomato sauce
- Porchetta: a late-night street food favorite Italy-wide, the roast pork is typically served in a sandwich bun
- Fried Oreos: hardly Italian, but a Feast of San Gennaro staple nevertheless!
Eataly or not, Little Italy will always have a specific place in Manhattan’s heart. Cue Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.”
Click for some great Italian food in New York City!