It is breakfast time outside the Grotta Azzurra on the corner of Mulberry and Broome. At an outside table Nick Bari nurses a smouldering cigar and reads the paper. All in black, Camile Garibaldi, the restaurant's manager, chats on the pavement with a friend before returning inside to see to customers.
All is well this morning in Little Italy. Or so it would seem. Up and down Mulberry Street, the main thoroughfare where the tourists roam and the restaurants hawk their focaccias and linguine con le vongoles, banners on lamp-posts welcome first-timers to "Historic Little Italy". If you look down you will see that the posts have been freshly painted in red, white and green.
While small enclaves of ethnic identity pepper the street-maps of New York, few generate more affection than Little Italy. Its history as home to thousands of Italian immigrant families and – lest we forget – as stamping ground for the city's growling Mafia goons, still means it features high on the itineraries of Manhattan visitors.
But these days the neighbourhood finds itself in uncharacteristically defensive mode.
First came word from the US Census Bureau that Little Italy was, well, barely Italian any more...
The census data released earlier this year included one particularly startling fact. Of the 8,600 residents interviewed in the two-dozen-square block area of Lower Manhattan that might still be deemed Little Italy – determining its borders is another area of contention – not one was actually born in Italy. And descendants of immigrants from Italy (Italian-Americans) made up only 5 per cent of the area's population.
via The Independent.