This Saturday, I belatedly celebrated two birthdays with my girl-friends; a luncheon at Da Nico’s in New York City’s famous Little Italy. Now, to get to Little Italy you have to pass through the equally famous and bustling China Town. Both of these areas of lower Manhattan are a “must see” in every tourist guide book and therefore jammed packed with people from all over the world taking in the sights, sounds, taste and smells of these historic districts.
I ascended from the subway onto Canal and Lafayette Streets, the hub of China Town, at 10:30am. We were not meeting until 1:30 so I had plenty of time to wander the streets with my camera to capture some of the neighborhood architecture and ethnicity as I made my way through the throngs of visitors and locals. The shop owners had just opened their doors and the hawkers were already outside enticing the passersby with the best and cheapest prices for their wares. Hanging from the awnings and homemade displays of each shop were hand bags, shoes, hats, fans, umbrellas, jeans, scarves, shawls, flip-flops, T-shirts, jewelry, and thousands upon thousands of NYC souvenir gee-gaws for people to take home as a fond reminder of their trip to New York City. There are street artists too, who for a small price will immortalize your name on a long rectangular pre-printed paper canvas in flowing colorful script interspersed with Chinese good luck and happiness symbols. I couldn’t help myself and bought one for each of the birthday celebrants.
Along Canal Street there are Chinese fast food carts with thin delicate noodles entwined with savory meats and vegetables packed in Styrofoam containers, if you prefer to eat on the go, or you can choose from the many restaurants offering Dim Sum, and stuff yourself with a wide and delicious variety of delectable dumplings.
When I reached Mulberry Street I made a left and stepped into the heart of Little Italy and watched as the restaurant staff prepared for the hungry afternoon crowds. Tables were put outside on the sidewalks and covered in festive cloths, brightly color umbrellas were popped open, bus-boys rushed by balancing long stacks of chairs to be placed around the tables. Next, shiny silverware and sparkling glasses were put out alongside tiny vases of flowers and lastly the laminated menus listing mouthwatering Italian dishes were laid opposite the forks and knives. There were gifts stores nestled in between the restaurants and cafes just in case you missed a trinket or two in China Town.
There are hawkers here too, but they are enticing the passerby not with touristy treasures but with delectable dishes of pastas, chicken, veal, and seafood prepared in rich sauces that will make you swoon with caloric happiness. If you are a pizza lover you’ve come to the right place. You have a wide choice of hot, crisp, crusty, cheesy pies accompanied by a bottle of the finest Italian wines. For dessert you have your pick of cafés to enjoy a leisurely cappuccino or espresso and a mind blowing creamy cannoli; as advertised by some poor guy who was wearing a king sized cannoli costume as he walked up and down the street handing out menus. A job you could not pay me enough to do.
As crowded, hot and noisy as these neighborhoods are you can’t help but get caught up in the festive tourist atmosphere and if you are like me usually wind up buying something that you really don’t need and walking away having spent way more than you intended, but somehow, feel you got a bargain.
With all of the incredible aromas assaulting my sensing and my stomach growling like a lion, I knew it was time for me to put the camera a way and get ready to eat, drink and be merry with my best friends.