Ever since finding out about Little Italy, I have always had interest in it for its historic culture. I admire how it literally represents piece of a foreign land and inserts itself among the bustle of New York City. I’ve roamed the streets about 3 times in total, all in different times of the year. I’ve been once around Christmas, again in the summer with family from other states, and another time during a rainy spring day. The rainy spring day was my most recent trip and it brought me back to each experience I’ve had where I imaged how Italy itself was like with its small hilltop shops and outdoor restaurants.
What I look forward to more than the street art and popping in cute touristy shops is the food! As you can imagine, this landmark tries to bring traditional cuisine to the Big Apple, from brick oven pizza to perfectly filled cannolis to handmade pastas and so on. The choices can get almost overwhelming, but I seem to always gravitate towards pizza, pasta, and ice cream- I guess I’m just that typa gal. 😉
One of the main reasons I was intrigued to explore Little Italy in the first place was because I found out that it contained the first pizzeria of the country. Lombardi’s was created in 1905 and it brought Neapolitan coal-fired pizza to the east coast. I tried the margherita pie the first time during my second trip in the summer time and the taste was a different kind of amazing. The crust was not thin like the New York pizza I was used to, but chewy and charred which balanced perfectly with the sweet, tart marinara. You could tell that the marina was made from local ripe tomatoes. The cheese was nothing like the shredded processed cheese we all know and love; the creators sliced a ball of fresh mozzarella and allowed it to melt into the almost soupy marina in the coal fired oven. Unfortunately, I did not capture Lombardi’s pizza in all its glory, but I hope you enjoy this snap of Mona Lisa doing her thing, showcasing their pizza, outside the restaurant’s walls:
Then I was on the hunt for this gelato place I had put on my food list (yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like) since about 2017. You’re probably thinking: a) I’m crazy for having saved and remembering a random food stop for that long, or b) my dedication to my food exploration is intense. I wouldn’t be mad at either thought. I follow many food Instagram pages for inspiration and adventure ideas, and when I saw this concept of gelato sandwiches in a hot brioche bun, I was sold since 2016. Fast forward to that rainy spring day, I had was determined to cross M’o Il Gelato off my list.
The Instagram post hadn’t named the item was but described it as consisting of gelato in a panini, so I scoured the menu and got excited when I found it. I was allowed to pick my gelato flavor, which was a mission in itself because my palate loves many flavors. I was tempted to try the coffee flavor, milk chocolate, and straciatella (milk-based ice cream with chocolate chips), but I knew it was only right to go with the Nutella flavor. I watched the vendor slice the warm bun, smoooothly scoop up the gelato (which I don’t understand how it is lower in calories than ice cream being that it’s so creamy), and gently tuck it inside with love. Then the concoction was cut in half and kissed with powdered sugar. Perfection. Biting into the panino felt like eating soft clouds with cool liquid streaming into your mouth as the gelato melted from the heat- think cream puffs except the exterior was warm. It made my tummy happy. 💟
These are the foods I had during my last trip to Little Italy. As I said, the options are endless and I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of seeing a piece of this foreign culture. Travelling into the city is always fun minus the long commute and traffic if you’re driving, but Little Italy will always be worth it.