La Stampa, Italy
New York, Now Little Italy Is in the Bronx
By Paolo Mastrolilli
Here too there has been the same kind of demographic transformation that changed the area of Mulberry Street, mostly linked to a positive development, the greater integration of Italians.
Translated By William Tew
26 January 2013
Edited by Kyrstie Lane
Italy - La Stampa - Original Article (Italian)
The area to the south of Manhattan is about to be engulfed by Chinatown. But around Arthur Avenue the tri-color character of the streets and the shops has remained very authentic.
Little Italy, step aside. The new quarter to go to in New York to find the authentic flavor of Italy is the Bronx. To be precise, it is the area around Arthur Avenue, in the Belmont neighborhood, which, according to its leaders, hopes to become the next “Village” of the city.
For decades Little Italy meant the area of Manhattan around Mulberry Street, where every September they hold the Feast of San Gennaro. It still exists, but Chinatown has all but eaten it up. And by now it is above all a tourist destination that has lost its authenticity.
The alternative involves taking a car, or the Metro North train that leaves from Grand Central Station, and venturing into the Bronx. The Little Italy of Arthur Avenue is about the same age as that in Manhattan, but for geographic reasons it has always remained a younger sister. Here too there has been the same kind of demographic transformation that changed the area of Mulberry Street, mostly linked to a positive development, the greater integration of Italians: As they have begun to make money and to climb the social ladder, they have moved to richer districts and identified less with a specific minority. They have been successful, becoming more American and less Italian.
The same is true for Arthur Avenue, where 63 percent of the population is now Hispanic and you can see a few Albanian flags in the windows. The Italian character of the streets and shops remains more authentic though, perhaps thanks to the area’s isolation. The products, from sopressate to torroni, often arrive directly from the Beautiful Country, and some owners were not even born in America. They are immigrants in the literal sense of the word, even if they stay in New York for a lifetime.
And near to them live, or have lived, some celebrities. This includes the writer Don DeLillo, who grew up on Arthur Avenue and set a major part of his novel “Underworld” there. And the film that marked Robert De Niro directorial debut, “A Bronx Tale,” unfolds across parts of Belmont.
For decades this community has remained hidden, obscured by the popularity of Manhattan’s Little Italy, but it is now claiming its place on the map of New York’s most characteristic places. The former residents who moved into richer quarters continue to return, to shop or to see friends, while a new public forms a line in the shops, attracted by their fascination with discovering new places. It helps that it is only a few steps to the Botanical Gardens and the Bronx Zoo, because many visitors finish on Arthur Avenue for lunch or dinner.
Understanding this, the residents and owners of restaurants, bakeries, delicatessens and various shops organized the Belmont Business Improvement District, managed by Frank Franz. They want to improve transportation, service and publicity. They want to attract new clients and become a popular destination, and they hope that young people, Italians and non-Italians, will choose this street with its authenticity as a place to live. “This,” wagers Franz, “will become the new Village.”
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