From this weekend until Labor day, visitors to Little Italy can enjoy some traffic-free, al fresco dining, thanks to the annual pedestrian mall along Mulberry Street. NY1's Natasha Ghoneim filed the following report.
Each creamy mound of mozzarella represents more than a hundred years of the DiPalo family legacy in Little Italy. For four generations, DiPalo's has sold homemade cheese in the Manhattan neighborhood, preserving a way of life and the place where many Italian-Americans first called home.
"I'm here to make sure this community is always viable and safe and a destination for people to come to experience what my grandparents and great-grandparents brought to this country," said Luigi DiPalo, the owner of DiPalo's.
DiPalo's is one of a handful of businesses that have staked their claim in Little Italy for a hundred years. The Little Italy Merchants Association says the average tenure of its businesses is about 40 years, but the neighborhood has changed over the decades.
"Little Italy has unfortunately been shrinking over time and what we're trying to do is to preserve this area because there may not be as many Italians, Italian-Americans here anymore, but it still represents the history and culture of Italian-Americans and their first stop in this country," said Queens Senator Tony Avella.
For the last 15 years, Mulberry Street has become a pedestrian mall from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend.
"It increases the foot traffic tremendously. Little Italy literally suffers during January, February and March and this compensates for January and February," says Little Italy Merchants Association President Raffaele Tramontana.
In the next three months, businesses will earn the bulk of their revenues as people eat pizza and drink wine al fresco and shop.
"Anybody that comes to New York has to come to Little Italy," said one local.
"The people are a flavor in themselves," said a visitor.
Places like DiPalo's, which represent the neighborhood's heart and soul, hope to keep people coming back for at least another four generations.