Sadly, all that’s left of the city’s ‘official’ Little Italy located just north of Chinatown is an abundance of mediocre Italian restaurants and cafes geared at tourists. Manhattan’s ‘real’ Little Italy is now confined to a stretch of Bleecker Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues, a hub of Italian immigration around the turn of the 20th century. Today, an authentic Italian feel remains thanks to an active Catholic church on the block, several Italian bakeries, butchers, and food shops, and one of the best pizzerias in the city. And with new gourmet shops opening up, the street is transforming itself into a downtown food destination.
Italian delicacies abound at Faicco’s Pork Store: fresh mozzarella, dozens of varieties of homemade sausage, prosciutto, and meats of all kinds sold at an old-fashioned counter, plus sandwiches and packaged heat-and-go meals like eggplant parmigiana or lasagna. Next door, Murray’s is one of the best cheese shops in the city. The informed staff lets you taste-test a wide selection of cheeses from Italy, France, and many other countries. They hold cheese classes too. Traditional family butcher Ottomanelli & Sons has been in business for more than 80 years. Even if you don’t want to buy a steak or a leg of lamb, it’s fun to check out the old-style ambiente. For mouthwatering cannoli (pastries filled with sweet ricotta cream) or tiramisu along with a satisfying cup of espresso, take a seat at Pasticceria Rocco. Some argue the best pizza in town is at John’s Pizzeria (no. 278, tel: 212-243-1680). Make sure you’re hungry – pizzas are made to order and sold by the pie, not the slice.