Thanks for visiting Free Tours by Foot New York!
This post covers things to do in Little Italy and NoLita, including where to eat, shop, and see art (all according to a local tour guide).
The former areas of Little Italy, now split into two neighborhoods, Little Italy and NoLita, are steeped in Italian-American culture, history and have both an old world and trendy feel.
Enjoy the architecture and historic sites, pop into trendy shoe stores and souvenir shops, grab a cannoli, and people-watch in Elizabeth Street Garden.
In warm weather, Little Italy blocks off Mulberry Street, and restaurants bring out the tables, chairs, and music. It’s an enchanted way to spend a Friday evening in New York City.
In September you can experience the decades-old San Gennaro’s Festival, which extends from Little Italy through NoLita. Sample food, listen to music and perhaps watch a cannoli eating contest.
Little Italy and NoLita are located within the greater Lower Manhattan District.
You can use this Google Maps link for directions, but how you get here depends on where you are going, as there are several subway stations throughout Little Italy.
Let Us Take You Here
Three of our tours include a visit to Little Italy:
Multiple subway lines take you to different parts of Little Italy.
Multiple subway lines take you to different parts of NoLita.
We have 2 posts on the NYC subway that are very handy:
To Little Italy: M1, M103, M15, M15-SBS
To NoLita: M1
TIP: Most hop-on-hop-off buses will have a stop near Broadway & Spring Street or Broadway/Walker Street. To see if a bus tour is right for you, read our post, Which New York Bus Tour is Best?
Instead of staying in bustling Midtown, why not stay in Nolita or Little Italy, where you will interact with the locals who live there.
Also, look at these inexpensive hotels we recommend.
If you want to get a good feel for Little Italy and NoLita, you can cover both areas in an afternoon, with multiple food and shopping options.
You can have a trendy brunch, shop in the boutiques in Nolita, grab some souvenirs in Little Italy, then top off the night with a traditional-style dinner.
If you are visiting in warm weather, perhaps plan this on a Friday to experience the closed-off streets and outdoor dining.
Little Italy and Nolita have a mixture of sites and food, you will probably want to come back for more.
Below we list the top places to stop by to get a true sense of this wonderful neighborhood.
Mulberry Street is considered the heart of Little Italy. Lined with restaurants and cafes with outdoor dining, this is the place to relax, enjoy great food, and people-watch.
Mulberry Street is fairly long and runs through Chinatown on its southern end, through Little Italy and NoLita, and ends in NoHo.
The street is so old that it even appears on some pre-colonial maps from the mid-1700s.
In the mid-1800s hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Italy flocked to the area and Mulberry Street was the center of it all.
Mulberry Street has been the site of mafia hits and movie shoots!
A walk along Mulberry Street is a must on any visit to Little Italy.
Lombardi’s Pizzeria is the very first pizzeria in the entire country, opening in 1905.
Their pizzas are made in coal-burning ovens, the original ovens the Italian immigrants used to make their pizza in their new home.
See the restaurant section below to find out about dining there.
Saint Patrick’s Old Cathedral, at 240 Mulberry Street, was completed in 1815 in the Gothic Revival style.
The Old Police Headquarters at 240 Centre Street is a grand Beaux-Arts building dominating what is now the outskirts of the neighborhood.
There are many tours of the Little Italy and Nolita neighborhoods, including general walking tours, food tours, mobster/mafia, movie/tv locations, shopping, pub crawls — you name it, there’s a tour for it!
We offer pay-what-you-wish tours, meaning that you get to decide how much your experience was worth.
Also, several tourist discount passes include a free tour of Little Italy.
The LISA project (Little Italy Street Art Crawl) is a non-profit organization that has brought a diverse group of street artists to Mulberry Street to create Manhattan’s first and only mural district.
The multitude of artists exhibiting on the walls and other surfaces in the area include Tristan Eaton, Blek Le Rat, and Ron English who’s best known for the bright green baby hulk known as “Temper Tot”.
If you are a Street Art fan or just want to learn more about this colorful form of expressive art, join one of our New York Street Art Tours.
The Old Police Headquarters at 240 Centre Street is in both the Edwardian baroque-style and Beaux-Arts style, copper dome, and extravagant terrace roof.
It housed the NYC Police headquarters from 1909 to 1973. Today it is multi-million dollar co-op apartments.
The Puck Building at 295 Lafayette is in the Romanesque Revival style and occupies one full city block.
Originally built for a printing press company, it was later occupied by Puck Magazine, its namesake.
The Puck Building exterior was used as the location of Grace Adler’s interior design business in the popular sitcom Will and Grace.
Little Italy has a strong connection to the history associated with this criminal organization of the past, and not so past.
The most infamous mafia-related location in Little Italy is 129 Mulberry Street where, on April 7, 1972, ‘Crazy’ Joey Gallo was shot dead in plain sight. At the time it was Umberto’s Clam House.
You can read more about this hit-job and more from our free self-guided tour of the New York Mafia, which covers the areas of Little Italy.
Countless movies and tv shows have been filmed in Little Italy, including many scenes from The Godfather trilogy.
Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral at 273 Mott Street is where Michael Corleone attends a baptism, while simultaneously he is having his enemies murdered around the country. The inside of this small church is gorgeous.
Down the block at 128 Mott Street, the storefront for Genco Olive Oil, Vito Corleone’s first “business” was filmed.
The interior of Mulberry Street Bar was featured in The Godfather 3, Donnie Brasco, and multiple seasons of The Sopranos.
Little Italy isn’t the backdrop just for mafia movies. A scene from Sex and the City was filmed inside Oneal’s at 174 Grand Street, which is a stop on our free tour of Sex and the City sights.
Little Italy is known for its plethora of Italian restaurants, with their restaurant barkers trying to lure you in.
Although Italian cuisine is still a popular choice for New Yorkers, there is something about having a classic spaghetti and meatballs dish in the neighborhood of its birthplace.
NoLita is known for its trendy cuisine, interesting takes on classic dishes, so this is where you can find a lot of variety.
Below we have a long list of restaurants we recommend.
You may also want to try a fully guided Nolita and Little Italy’s Secrets food and culture walking tour from Foods of New York.
NoLita is well-known for its unique boutiques and is one of the best neighborhoods in NYC for upscale consignment shops.
Stroll the streets and enjoy the shopping — or window shopping!
If you are on a budget, see our guide to Discount Shopping in New York City.
Little Italy has many souvenir shops, like E. Rossi & Company at 193 Grand Street. It opened in 1910 and has Italian gifts, souvenirs, and novelty items.
Head south into Chinatown, walking along Mott Street where you will find lots of souvenir shops and plenty of places to try local cuisine.
SoHo is to the west. Check out the art galleries, designer shops, and splendid architecture.
Chinatown and SoHo can be easily explored on the same day you visit Little Italy and Nolita.
The East Village is to the north.
Known as a former German immigrant neighborhood, it later became the birthplace of punk rock, with many artists and musicians making the neighborhood their home since the 1950s.
The Lower East Side is to the east.
What was once a neighborhood of Eastern European and Jewish immigrants is now a trendy hub with your pick of both cultural and fusion cuisine, bars, and entertainment.
One way to get to know the Lower East Side is through its delicious foods. You might enjoy our Lower East Side Food Tour.
Speaking of food, just below is a long list of restaurants and cafes to try in Little Italy.
Below is a long list of excellent dining options to fit all budgets.
If you want a quintessential Little Italy/Nolita dining experience, here are three restaurants to try:
Lombardi’s Pizza – 32 Spring St. ($$)
Gennaro Lombardi started this business in 1897 as a grocery store, then in 1905 received a license to open the first pizzeria in the United States.
Still a family business and regarded as one of the top pizzerias in the country, their superheated coal-fired oven, one of the last in the city, provides a crispy crust with a delightfully soft center.
Many top pizza makers received training here.
Da Gennaro Restaurant– 129 Mulberry St. ($$)
The previous site of Umberto’s Clam House, an Italian seafood restaurant established in 1972 by the Ianniello family.
Barely weeks after opening it was the location of one of the most infamous mafia hits in American history when mobster Joe Gallo stopped for a morning snack.
He was spotted by a rival gangster, then hitmen arrived and shot him five times and Gallo stumbled out into the street where he died.
Umberto’s reopened in 2000 at 132 Mulberry St. TIP: Learn more about NYC’s organized crime history on our self-guided New York Mafia Tour.
Onieal’s – 174 Grand St. ($$)
Apart from $1 oysters on Monday to Friday from 4 pm to 7 pm, Onieals is a restaurant and bar that’s known for featuring in Sex and the City, as the backdrop of the casually hip New York City bar “Scout”.
Over the years it’s also been a brothel, speakeasy, and casino.
During prohibition, there was even a tunnel built to connect it to the nearby Police Headquarters, enabling NYPD officers easy and discreet access to liquor and good times.
Be sure to check out our self-guided tour of Sex and the City scenes in New York City.
Prince Street Pizza – 27 Prince St. ($) Known for their homemade sauce, people line up to grab a slice, or two. Standing room only.
Alleva Dairy – 188 Grand St. ($) This is the oldest cheese store in the USA. Tasty sandwiches, arancini, meatballs, mozzarella sticks all made fresh daily. No seating, but there are benches outside the store.
Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich Deli – 369 Broome St. ($) Don’t let the interior fool you. They make the best authentic Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches in NYC. Limited seating. CASH ONLY.
Asia Dog– 72 Kenmare St. ($) An Asian twist on an American classic. Hot dog choices are beef, organic beef, chicken or veggie with toppings typical of China, Korea, Vietnam, Japan, and more.
Parm – 248 Mulberry St. ($) Gourmet twist on classic Italian dishes, created by chefs Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi and restaurateur Jeff Zalaznick. Authentic Indian street food.
Egg Shop– 151 Elizabeth St. Egg-centric menu of sandwiches and bowls using locally sourced and organic ingredients, with cocktail pairings.
Angelo’s of Mulberry Street– 146 Mulberry St. Opened in 1902, the menu is homemade southern Italian with top-notch service.
Pasquale Jones – 187 Mulberry St. Try the pizza! Wood-fired pies, pasta, cool vibe, and excellent service.
Osteria Morini– 249 Centre St. Serving Northern Italian cuisine, the interior is decorated from an Italian 1700’s farmhouse.
Emilio’s Ballato – 55 East Houston. Simple Italian dishes with an old school atmosphere. This restaurant does not take reservations.
La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels – 249 Centre St. French and Mediterranian small plate menu with an extensive French wine list and knowledgeable staff.
Margherita NYC – 197 Grand St. Family-owned, Neapolitan pizza restaurant with a cozy atmosphere.
Puglia – 189 Hester St. Opened in 1919, this Italian restaurant has big portions with a big family feel. Live music and karaoke.
Alleva Dairy – 188 Grand St. Opened in 1892, this is the oldest cheese shop in the US.
This fifth-generation family-operated shop has yummy sandwiches and small sample items like arancini and meatballs. This is a must-visit food stop in Little Italy.
Eileen’s Special Cheesecake – 17 Cleveland Place.
Eileenopened her small shop at 17 Cleveland Place in 1975 and has been creating fresh cheesecakes daily ever since. It is a must-stop for all cheesecake lovers.
Ferrara Bakery and Cafe – 195 Grand St.
One of NYC’s most iconic bakeries/cafe, it opened in 1892 and is 5th generation family operated. Dine in or take out fresh pastries, cookies, cheesecakes, gelato, or come for brunch.
Caffé Palermo – 148 Mulberry St.
Opened in 1973, it is a neighborhood institution. Also voted the best cannoli in New York City.
Parisi Bakery Delicatessen – 198 Mott St.
Opened in 1903, it is still family operated. Their bakery is just over on Elizabeth Street so their bread is so fresh and their sandwiches iconic.
Di Palo’s Fine Foods – 200 Grand St.
Also 5th generation family operated, this place is a cheese lover’s dream. Around the corner is C. Di Palo, their wine bar at 151 Mott Street.
Little Italy and Nolita have an array of nightlife. In warmer weather, Mulberry Street is closed down to pedestrian traffic on Fridays.
Restaurants bring their white linen tables outdoors. You’ll hear music to set the mood. Everyone is dining outside.
You can find drinking spots with every kind of atmosphere and price range. Sidewalk cafes stay open late and are perfect for a cappuccino and people-watching.
Be sure to also read our guide on things to do in NYC at night.
Randolph Beer – 343 Broome St. If you love your craft beer, this is the bar for you. Their menu features over 30 beers, with an all-American motif.
Mother’s Ruin – 18 Spring St.
Local bar vibe with an exceptional cocktail list customers rave about.
Botanica Bar – 47 East Houston St.
Signature cocktails and beer with a botanical motif. A DJ spins music, with karaoke on Sunday nights.
YN – 227 Mott St.
Small wine bar with a cozy atmosphere and tapas-style menu. Great place to meet friends, grab a snack and drink some wine.
Sweet and Vicious – 5 Spring St.
A local bar with outdoor seating, a solid drink menu and customers rave about their frozen margaritas.
Unfortunately, you do not have many choices within the confines of these neighborhoods but you can find some really great ones that are only a few minutes walk away.
Before you book a hotel for your trip, be sure to check out our post on locating cheap accommodations in New York City.
Nolitan Hotel – 30 Kenmare St.
Chic-boutique style hotel close to shopping and restaurants, with a TripAdvisor review rating of 4.4 stars,
NobleDen Hotel – 196 Grand St.
Another boutique style hotel close to shopping and restaurants, with a TripAdvisor review rating of 4.7 stars.
Citizen M New York Bowery Hotel– 189 Bowery.
Rooms are small but this hotel boasts one of the best rooftop bars in Manhattan, with a TripAdvisor review rating of 4.5 stars.
Crosby Street Hotel – 79 Crosby St.
Upscale and elegant vibe, this hotel is centrally located on the eastern side of SoHo. A prime spot for shopping and a wide array of restaurants, with a TripAdvisor rating of 4.6 stars.
The Sohotel – 314 Broome St.
If you are on a tight budget, you may want to consider this hotel. It has a modern feel in a historical building, which means no elevator.
Still, it is close to the subway, restaurants, and shopping.