Originally much larger than it is today, Little Italy was a vast neighborhood comprised of Italian immigrants. Historically, Little Italy encompassed an area stretching from Canal Street to Houston and, during the first half of the 20th century, existed as a strongly Italian neighborhood. Over the years, it diminished in scale as neighboring Chinatown expanded to accommodate the large influx of Chinese and East Asian immigrants. The original Italian inhabitants relocated to outer boroughs. By the mid 1970s, the Little Italy Restoration Association (LIRA) was formed by local residents to work for urban planning measures that would help preserve the area. The Little Italy Restoration Association was instrumental in gaining pedestrian-only status for a section of Mulberry Street.
Today, Little Italy comprises an area of approximately four city blocks; what's distinctly Little Italy can be found on Mulberry Street, between Broome and Canal. The streets are cobblestone and a prominent feature of the area, often appearing in movies. The majority of the buildings are beautiful six-story walk-ups, several of which housed the many Italian families that originally occupied Little Italy. Featuring a selection of Italian restaurants, grocers, and souvenir shops, Little Italy is still a tourist destination, especially during its 11-day festival every September, the Feast of San Gennaro. Notable shopping destinations in the area include DiPalo's Fine Foods and Il Coccio Italian Ceramics, a small boutique specializing in ceramic figurines imported from Sicily. Although the neighborhood is small, it has a distinct charm, and is located right by present-day Chinatown, the Village, SoHo, and Union Square. It’s not far from Whole Foods Market, the Angelika Film Center. And all the culture of downtown New York.
The original St. Patrick's Cathedral (now a parish church) was located here and the building is still worth a look. The Police Building is another feature of the area. Built in 1909, it was at one time the main police headquarters for the city. It served in that capacity for 60 year. Now, however, the building has been converted to a residential co-op. Other points of interest are Jarvis House, the Italian-American Museum, and of course, the aforementioned numerous restaurants. Some recommended ones include Casa Bella Ristorante, Da Nico, Il Cortile, Il Palazza, La Bella Ferrara and Pellegrino’s.
Little Italy has convenient access to the F, J, M, and Z trains, as well as the M103 bus.