Anyone remember long gone Little Italy restaurants in Manhattan??
Obviously all of these restaurants are long gone, but in my opinion they were the places that made Little Italy in Manhattan what it was. Many of them are old establishments that were started during the turn of the 20th century and many of them have just closed in the past 2-5 years. Others have been closed much longer, so it will be interesting for me to see how far back some can remember.
1. Luna Restaurant --> Was one of the oldest places in Little Italy when it closed back in 2006 or so. I can't remember the exact year. But it was probably the most authentic Italian left on Mulberry Street at the time, and not only that, but it was also very reasonably priced. Not like all of the tourist traps that are lined up there now. The wait staff was always so nice, I even talked to one of the guys who worked there for 30+ years...telling me about the transition the neighborhood had gone through since they were there. I was shattered to find out that they closed about 3 or 4 years ago. I still have not found out why they closed...I heard that they owned the building, so they could not have been pushed out by a greedy landlord.
2. Paolucci's --> This gem was also on Mulberry Street, and was actually very similar to Luna's, except the prices were a little bit more and the food was a little bit better. Anyway, they moved to Staten Island back in 2005 due to...what else but greedy landlords pushing them out. I read in the paper that they tried to save the restaurant that they had since 1947, but lost it in court. Last I was in Little Italy, the historic building that housed Paolucci's is still for rent.
3. Villa Pensa --> This place was actually one of the last remaining Italian restaurants in Little Italy that was not on the main drag of Mulberry Street. It was on Grand near Mott. I can't pinpoint the exact year that it closed because I was not in the area at that time. But I last ate there in '87 I believe when it was still open and still looked healthy. It must have closed sometime in the early 1990's, because I was in Little Italy in '94 and it was completely gone...building and all. Anyway, the reason why I wanted to include this place was because of the seafood. They had te best seafood, even a little better than Umberto's (another Little Italy seafood place). The calamari and pasta sides were to die for. It was sad to see this guy go, I never found out why they closed either.
4. Ruggero --> Also on Grand Street, next to the former Villa Pensa. This place was also one of those family owned and run places that you can't forget. What really stood out to me at this place was the chicken and veal dishes. Like Chicken (Pollo) and Veal Parm. Ruggero must have closed down the same time Villa Pensa did, because it to was gone in 1994 when I went to Little Italy. It now houses Nyonya. Like so many of the others I never found out what made Ruggero close.
5. Ristorante Taormina --> This was a more recent closing in 2007. This place, unlike the others I have mentioned, was not a authentic "old school" place from 100 years earlier, it was more upscale and classy. But did they have some good food. In 2007, when Luna's and Paolucci's closed already it was my favorite on Mulberry Street. But that year after the San Gennaro Feast I learned like Paolucci's before it, Taormina would also close because of the rising rents of the greedy landlords. It's still for rent today...last I saw.
6. Marionetta Ristornate --> This place was on Mulberry, next to the present day Positano. I remember this place in the 1990's. They served up really good Neapolitian cuisine specifically. There is not many places in Little Italy that specifically serve Neapolitian food anymore, it's just a mix of Italian food from anywhere and everywhere. It became one of those Chinatown style gift shops in the mid 1990's I believe, the same fate as Luna's had.
7. Dixie Rose Cafe --> This place was at the corner of Broome and Mulberry Streets. The same place where current day Umberto's Clam House is located. They, like Caffe Roma, had very good pastries and desserts. I remember them being a little bit less expensive than the other pastry places like Ferrara's or any of the restaurants.
Anyway, this was my little road trip back to the Little Italy of the past that no longer exists. I would be interested from hearing from anyone that remembers any of these places or can remember any other places that I may have just forgotten.
It would be interesting to hear from someone that knows what happend to many of these places (why they closed), because I really don't.