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Travel Reflections: Little Italy in NYC

What experience was the most memorable?

erossiIt's been almost twenty years since I've been to Italy. We keep talking about going back but there are so many other places we want to see. However, we recently got a little taste of the old country when we visited New York City with our three youngest grandkids. In addition to the 911 Memorial, the Tenement Museum, Central Park, Times Square, Coney Island, the Statue of Liberty at night seen from the Staten Island Ferry, and more, we visited Little Italy. Tough keeping up with those three, but Mimi and Papa did it!

Standing at the corner of Grand Street and Mulberry is an establishment that's been there since 1910, E. Rossi & Co. If you ever need any articoli Italiani, that's the place to go. It's an old-fashioned store stacked from floor to ceiling with Italian stuff (mostly tourist stuff) to the point where you can barely move through the already narrow aisles. I introduced myself to the proprietor,  a few generations removed family member of the store's founder. When he heard I was with the Dante Alighieri Society of Denver, he said that if we ever needed any kind of "swag" for the club, he would give us such a deal. The whole time we were having this discussion, he was on the phone with another family member talking about his recent colonoscopy! Hey, siamo tutti una famiglia, giusto? If you ever get the chance, you have to visit this shop. It's right next to Ferrara Bakery and Cafe that has gelato to die for. If you do visit Rossi's, tell them I said Hi!

Strolling down Mulberry Street, we looked for a restaurant for dinner. We didn't have to go far since there were eateries lined up next to each other on both sides of the street. We checked out the menu posted on the sidewalk outside one establishment. But when I saw their sandwich board hawking Pacifico beer, I thought "that's not Italian" and so we moved on to the place next door. The greeter was welcoming, expressive (go figure!), and accommodating in seating the five of us in their streetside dining area. While I didn't have a Peroni Italian beer, I did have an Angelo Azzurro, a cocktail of gin, blue curacao and, and triple sec. Not only was it beautiful and refreshing, but the kids were fascinated with the blue color. After a delicious dinner, which included for me an exceptional linguine vongole, we headed back to Ferrara for gelato to finish off our visit to Little Italy.

I've had the opportunity on several occasions to visit this small part of the Italian culture being kept alive on the lower east side of Manhattan. Unfortunately, it seems to be getting smaller as Chinatown to the north is creeping farther into Little Italy's territory. Strolling through Chinatown has always been for me, and was so too for the kids that day, an eye-opening, fascinating and educational experience. I'm sure Little Italy will always be there for visitors to experience, no matter what. Hopefully though, I'll still be able to return to Italy to revisit il mio patrimonio familiare. Grazie e ciao.

This blog was written by John G. and reflects John's unique experience while in Little Italy, NYC.