From the BlogSubscribe Now

The Italian American Museum in Manhattan’s Little Italy

Anchoring the corner of Mulberry and Grand Streets in New York City’s Little Italy is an attractive 19-century brick building that is the home of the Italian American Museum.

The Italian American Museum in Manhattan's Little Italy

Exterior of the museum

The idea for a museum to document the history of the Italian community in New York came about after the highly acclaimed exhibition, The Italians of New York: Five Centuries of Struggle and Achievement, which opened at the New York Historical Society in October 1999.

The museum founder, Dr. Joseph Scelsa received its charter in 2001. It operated initially on W44 Street before moving in 2008 to its permanent home, 155 Mulberry Street, after museum officials bought the Banca Stabile building from Dr. Jerome Stabile III. Dr. Stabile’s family started the bank in 1882.

Banca Stabile, which was founded by Francesco Rosario Stabile, was a fixture in Little Italy at a time when Mulberry Street was described as the Italian Wall Street, for the number of banks that were there.

The bank became a one-stop community center, providing financial, translation, insurance, travel and money transfer services. It was a link between the immigrants in New York and their relatives and friends back home.

When Banca Stabile closed in 1932, the family kept the building, including its vault, tin ceiling, marble floor and counters, bronze grilles, and teller cages intact. They also retained items such as steam ship tickets, safe deposit boxes, bank books, passports, and deeds.

The 1,000 square foot museum is bursting at the seams with memorabilia from the bank and those that families have donated. Among the items on exhibit is the gun that retired NYPD police officer, Francesco “Frank” Serpico owned. Serpico was the cop who blew the whistle on police corruption in the 1960s and 70s.

There are also several marionettes from Miguel “Papa” Manteo, photos and other information about Luigi del Bianco, chief carver at Mount Rushmore, and assorted other items that illustrate the history of Italians in New York.

The Italian American Museum, at 155 Mulberry Street, is opened on Saturdays 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., on Sundays from noon to 6:00 p.m., and by appointment during the week. For a $5.00 suggested donation, visitors to the small storefront museum are shown a short film and are able to see these memorabilia up close.

 

Linking to Travel Photo Thursday, which Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox organizes. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.

Food and History in New York City’s Chinatown

One of the perks of living in a city the size of New York is the diversity it offers, not only in things to do but also in culinary offerings. Food from almost every nation is represented here.

Last weekend, my friend Joan and I joined Ahoy New York for their Food Tasting and Cultural Walking Tour of Chinatown and Little Italy. We started in Little Italy and ended the tour in Chinatown. 

New York City’s Chinatown is a bustling neighborhood that is home to the largest population of Chinese outside of China – approximately 100,000. The neighborhood now occupies an area of about 2 miles stretching south roughly to Chambers Street, east to the Lower East Side, north to Little Italy and west to Broadway/Tribeca.

A Short History of Chinatown

In the mid-1800s, Chinese immigrants, men mostly, headed west to California, Gold Mountain as they called it, lured by dreams of striking it rich. Instead of gold, they found limited opportunities for work. Their dreams evaporated and with no money to return home or to send for their families their dreams they moved east.

Arriving in New York City, these former residents of Canton, settled in the area around Mott, Pell and Doyers Streets and worked as cooks and launderers, jobs usually done by women. They brought their language, culture and culinary traditions like dim sum, bite-sized foods served steamed or fried. Dim Sum has its origins in the famous Silk Road when tea houses opened to accommodate weary travelers.

Food and History in NYC's Chinatown

Liz pointing out pastries in a store on Mott Street

Our first stop was Pongrsi Thai Restaurant on Bayard Street, the oldest family-run and operated Thai restaurant in New York City. Started by Khun Pongrsi and her husband Khun Prasit Tangchakkrachai, Pongrsi has been serving authentic Thai food in the same place since 1972. It is credited with popularizing Thai food in the city.

After walking around for the better part of the morning, the chance to sit and enjoy the meal was quite welcome. We sampled Orange Chicken, Chicken Pra Ramm (peanut sauce/curry dish) and a Pad See Ew.

My favorite, the Orange Chicken, was unlike any I’ve had. The orange was subtle enough to provide a delicious balance to the chicken. By the time the plate got to me, though, only a few pieces were left – it was that good. I really love Thai food so you can bet I’ll be back to Pongsri very soon.

Leaving Pongsri, we walked through Columbus Park, and made a brief stop on Mulberry in the Five Points section of Lower Manhattan. You might remember Five Points, that notorious section of the city that was the setting for the movie, [simpleazon-link asin=”B004SIP7TE” locale=”us”]Gangs Of New York[/simpleazon-link].

Five Points got its name from the five-pointed intersection created by Orange now Baxter Street, Cross now Mosco Street, Anthony now Worth Street and Little Water Street, which or no longer exists. Today, that part of Mulberry Street is lined with funeral homes that serve the community.

Soon we arrive at Tasty Dumpling, 54 Mulberry, for our first Chinese tasting. Can you guess what we sampled at Tasty Dumpling? Why, dumplings, of course!

Tasty Dumpling’s dumplings get rated consistently as the best dumplings in Chinatown – and at 5 for $1.25, are a tasty bargain. That probably explains why nearly all the tables in this small eatery were occupied when we arrived so we crowded into the only free space – at the left of the counter.

A woman was at the stove loading freshly made dumplings into a huge steamer while in the back two others were adding the filling to the dough.

Our dumplings were still warm when they arrived. Liz added a soy-white vinegar sauce and passed them around. The wrapper was nice and firm and so translucent I could see the filling, and when I took a bite, it was moist and tasty, the dipping sauce adding a nice kick.

Leaving Tasty Dumpling, we crossed over to Mott Street then to Doyers to Nom Wah Tea Parlor, our last stop on the tour. Nom Wah, the oldest dim sum restaurant in Chinatown has been around and on the same block of Doyers Street since the 1920s.

The Choy family owned the restaurant until they sold it in 1974 to Wally Tang, a longtime employee. Mr. Tang started working at Nom Wah in the 1950s when he was 16 and began managing it when he was 20.

Little has changed to the exterior of Nom Wah but Wilson Tang, the new manager and the next generation of Tangs, has upgraded the interior. Wally and his team of dim sum experts still keep an eye on things though.

It was about 1:00 pm when we arrived and diners were clustered outside in groups of twos and threes waiting for tables. Someone from the restaurant would come to the door and call the next name on the list as tables became free. Good thing Liz had placed our order ahead of time so we didn’t have to wait.

Nom Wah’s original egg rolls are round and fat. Stuffed with chicken and vegetables, they are rolled in egg crêpe then fried in homemade batter which makes them crisp and flaky. Despite being fried, they aren’t greasy. Each egg roll was cut in two and each of us got half but after all the food we’d sampled, one piece of this delicious treat was enough.

We had come to the end of our three hour tour and it was time to say goodbye to Liz, our very enthusiastic tour guide. I’m sure all of Ahoy New York’s tour guides are knowledgeable, warm and sociable but Liz makes you feel like she’s giving a tour with long time friends.

To recap, we visited Alleva Diary, DiPalo’s Fine Foods, Grand Appetito and Ferrara Bakery & Cafe in Little Italy, and Pongsri Thai Restaurant, Tasty Dumpling and Nom Wah Tea Parlor in Chinatown. We did a quick stop at the Italian American Museum, which I’ll cover in another post.

Joan and I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening in Chinatown. We had dinner at one of the cellar restaurants on Mott Street that Liz had pointed out then ended up at a wine tasting at Enoteca DiPalo’s. (More about these later.)

One thing I forgot to mention: my friend Joan has severe allergies to shellfish and Ahoy was able to arrange other dishes for her to sample on the Chinatown part of the tour.

Please note: I found this recipe for Thai Orange Chicken at Allrecipes.com.

Thai Orange Chicken
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  2. 3 carrots, cut into matchsticks
  3. 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root
  4. 1 clove garlic, minced
  5. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  6. 2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into small pieces
  7. 1/2 cup water
  8. 1/2 cup peanuts
  9. 1/3 cup orange juice
  10. 1/3 cup soy sauce
  11. 1/3 cup brown sugar
  12. 2 tablespoons ketchup
  13. 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  14. 2 tablespoons cornstarch
Instructions
  1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat; cook and stir carrots, ginger, and garlic until carrots are slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer carrot mixture to a bowl. Add remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil to the same skillet.
  2. Cook and stir chicken in the hot olive oil until no longer pink in the center, about 10 minutes. Add carrot mixture, water, peanuts, orange juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, ketchup, and red pepper flakes to chicken; stir to combine. Cover and simmer until sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes.
  3. Remove about 1/4 cup sauce from the skillet; whisk in cornstarch until dissolved and sauce is smooth. Pour cornstarch mixture back into chicken and sauce; cook until sauce is slightly thickened, about 5 more minutes.
InsideJourneys http://insidejourneys.com/
Disclosure: We were guests of Ahoy New York on this Chinatown and Little Italy Food Tasting and Cultural Walking Tour, but as usual, the opinions expressed here are our own. Thanks to Ray and Alana, and Liz, our very knowledgeable, very entertaining and very enthusiastic tour guide. 

Recommended Reading

[simpleazon-link asin=”0738550183″ locale=”us”]New York City’s Chinese Community (Images of America: New York)[/simpleazon-link], Josephine Tsui Yueh Lee

Can you name one popular Chinese dish that you won’t find in China?

How to join the #FoodieTuesday linkup –

  • Add the link to your foodie post in the link tool at the bottom of this post
  • Leave a comment.
  • As a courtesy, please include a link back to this post.
  • Tweet, G+, Like, etc., using the hashtag #FoodieTuesday

 

 Loading InLinkz ...

Chinese New Year Parade in New York’s Chinatown

If the temperature here in New York had remained as cold as it was during the week, I would not have gone to the Chinese New Year Parade in Chinatown on Sunday.

As it turned out, it was a welcome 53 degrees around the 1:00 p.m. start time for the parade, and a still balmy 43 degrees – warmer that it was in Denver (21) and Seattle (41) – when Super Bowl 48 kicked off in the evening. (Snow started late Sunday night and continued into Monday and we got snow overnight last night. As one of my friends said, God is a Super Bowl fan! That was her explanation for the wacky weather we’ve had.)

But before I show you those, let’s take a look at some of the ones I took the day before.

We were in Chinatown for a morning food tour  and after the tour, we followed the sounds of firecrackers to a side street off Mott. About a block long, it was so crowded with people that drivers took other streets. At one point, a police car cruised through, the officer using his loudspeaker to tell everyone that the street was not closed. Some minutes later, someone put up yellow tape, effectively creating a pedestrian-only block.

Almost everyone was setting off these long, colorful cardboard tubes that you see. They pop when you twist them and shoot confetti. It looked like too much fun not to get involved. So we bought 4 for $10 and joined in. Soon we had confetti in our hair, on our clothes. I’m still cleaning up bits of it at home.

Chinese New Year Parade Day

I arrived at the intersection of Canal and Mott Street around 11:30 a.m. and was surprised to see this group had already assembled there. My first thought was to watch the Parade from here but eventually it got crowded and the police officers put up barricades. You can’t move once you get behind the barricade, so I continued on Mott and looked for a spot that had fewer people. It was also near to one of the restaurants I wanted to try.

Chinese New Year Parade in New York's Chinatown

Assembling before the Parade

There were still lots of empty places at that end of Mott to watch the Parade after I had lunch. My timing was perfect – the 15th Chinatown New Year Parade started about ten minutes after I found my spot. I took a lot of photos – over 200 – and it was really difficult to decide which ones to use for this post. Hope you like the ones I selected.

Everyone loves a parade…especially politicians.

 

Enter the dragon.

 

 

The Year of the Horse began on January 31 and will end on February 18, 2015. It is thought to bring prosperity and wealth. People who are born in 1906, 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002 and 2014 are born in the Year of the Horse.

 

Linking to Travel Photo Thursday, which is organized by Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.

Food and History in New York’s Little Italy

I’ve been to Little Italy and Chinatown many times to eat and to shop but never thought of doing a food tour. That is, until this past Saturday when I joined six other women for Ahoy New York’s Chinatown and Little Italy Food Tasting and Cultural Walking Tour.

It was the perfect day to be outside. The temperature that had stayed stuck in the 20s during the early part of the week had moved a full 20 degrees more – almost a heat wave. My friend, Joan, and I met Liz, our guide at the address Ahoy gave us. Liz was all smiles and greeted us as if we were old friends. We chatted for a while and as soon as the others arrived, we were off to Little Italy, the first leg of our tour.

Food and History in Little Italy

Welcome to Little Italy

Little Italy, which once spread from Canal Street north to Houston Street, is the area where early immigrants from Italy made their first homes after coming through Ellis Island. At its peak, in the early 1900s, New York’s Italian population numbered about 390,000. Approximately 10,000 lived in Little Italy.

As newcomers in a strange land, they found comfort with others from the regions they’d left, others to who they were bound by dialect, culture and food. So you’d find former residents of Calabria on Mott Street, Silicians on Elizabeth Street and Neapolitans on Mulberry Street.

Food and History in Little Italy

Our group in the courtyard of the Church of the Most Precious Blood

Life in the US wasn’t easy. They crowded into tenements and cold-water flats, did menial jobs to support their families here and back home. And as their economic situation improved, they spread out to Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, New Jersey and Long Island.

Through gentrification, the movement outward of Italians, and the growing population of nearby Chinatown, Little Italy has shrunk. Today, the community takes up only four blocks on Mulberry between Broome and Canal Streets. But what it’s lost in geographic size, it’s more than made up for in heart and soul and good food in over 40 restaurants, cafes and bakeries, that draw thousands of New Yorkers and visitors each year.

In 2010, the National Park Service designated Little Italy and Chinatown a Historic District.

Little Italy Food Tasting and Cultural Walking Tour

Leaving our meeting place on Canal Street, we walked northeast on Mulberry Street, stopping briefly at the historic Most Precious Blood Church, a Roman Catholic Church that has served the community since its founding in 1891.  

Continuing on Mulberry, we made our first stop Alleva Dairy at 188 Grand Street. Alleva was established in 1892, by Pina Alleva, the matriarch of the family, who came to the US from Benevento. Alleva, the oldest Italian cheese store in America and is still run by the family.

Food and History in Little Italy

Alleva

Alleva does not use artificial flavors. They sell cheese as well as pasta, salami, sausages and imported olive oil, among other items.

Food and History in Little Italy

Prosciutto and Mozzarella

At Alleva, we sampled prosciutto and homemade mozzarella. I’ve had mozzarella on pizza but never by itself – its blandness doesn’t make it very appetizing to me. But I was curious to see how the homemade tasted — not that I expected one tasting to change my mind — but I’ve always preferred to start with the best.

Food and History in Little Italy

Di Palo’s

Continuing on Grand, our next stop was at Di Palo’s Fine Foods. Another family-run establishment, Di Palo’s has been serving Little Italy since 1910, when Savino Di Palo, a cheese maker, opened his latteria or dairy store.

Now run by the fourth generation, Di Palo’s sells select traditional products that are imported directly from Italy. They carry foods from every region. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, the counters were designed low enough to give customers the feeling they’re in someone’s kitchen. Di Palo’s believes in educating their customers and has a chef in house and an enoteca (wine shop) next door. (More about this later.)

There were only a few people when we arrived but Liz, our tour guide, said it’s quite different later in the day and on Sundays. (Joan and I saw that when we returned around 5 p.m. to buy cheese. The store was crowded but it took about 20 minutes for us to fill our order.)

At Di Palo’s, we sampled two different cheeses – a piave and a moliterno (pecorino). Piave is made from cow’s milk while the moliterno is made from sheep’s milk with a small percentage of goat’s milk. To keep its moisture and flavor, olive oil is rubbed into the moliterno during the aging process.

Light yellow in color, almost like butter, the piave is hard and has a mild taste. It would be perfect with grapes and other fruits, or on its own. In contrast, the moliterno was sharp and slightly salty. It definitely woke up my tastebuds. I would use it in salads or add it to a cheese platter.

Leaving Di Palo’s, we crossed the street to Grand Appetito for a slice of pizza. As you can imagine, this isn’t any old pizza. Angelo, Grand Appetito’s owner, believes in making pizza the old-fashioned way and uses only homemade mozzarella in his pies.

We made our final stop for cannoli next door at Ferrara Bakery & Café, another family run business. Ferrara has been a fixture in Little Italy since 1892 and is famous for its cannolis and Italian pastries. My cannolo was sweet and creamy. Thankfully, we were on a schedule as I could have easily gotten lost feeding my sweet tooth at Ferrara’s.

After we completed the Little Italy segment of the tour, we crossed Canal for the second half of our tour in Chinatown.

Thanks to Ahoy New York for hosting us on their Chinatown and Little Italy Food Tasting and Cultural Walking Tour, and to Liz, our very knowledgeable, very entertaining and very enthusiastic tour guide.

Liz’s Book Recommendations

[simpleazon-image align=”left” asin=”0547744943″ locale=”us” height=”110″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51iB21JPGzL._SL110_.jpg” width=”73″]Elizabeth Street, Laurie Fabiano

 

 

[simpleazon-image align=”left” asin=”0061288519″ locale=”us” height=”110″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51z6LYIXhSL._SL110_.jpg” width=”73″]97 Orchard Street: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement, Jane Ziegelman

 

How to join the #FoodieTuesday linkup –

  • Add the link to your foodie post in the link tool at the bottom of this post
  • Leave a comment.
  • As a courtesy, please include a link back to this post.
  • Tweet, G+, Like, etc., using the hashtag #FoodieTuesday
 Loading InLinkz ...