Where to Experience Italian Culture and History in NYC

UPDATED September 2017: Ask any New Yorker what their favorite Italian restaurant is and you are sure to get a different answer each time. Italian culture is prominent and celebrated in New York City and traces of it can be found all over. If you want to get in on the Italian action, check out these great locations, landmarks, and festivals that celebrate all things Italy.

Little Italy

You’ve surely heard of NYC’s famed Little Italy, full of iconic restaurants, bars, shops, and cafes. Hit up some of the best Italian restaurants for authentic fare and you’ll feel like you're right there dining in the heart of Italy.

Try Angelo’s of Mulberry for their homestyle Neapolitan fare that will fill any hungry belly with Italian goodness. Their famous sauces are the best of the best and reservations are accepted. Don’t forget a cannoli for dessert…consider a sweet treat at Ferrara, NYC’s famous Italian bakery that’s been around since 1892. Try their pastries or sumptuously sweet gelato. The kids will love their menu and won’t be able to wait until you visit again.

Italian American Museum

The Italian American Museum was erected in 2001 to establish and maintain a museum dedicated to Italian Americans. The current exhibitions include Passage by Yorgos Giotsas, a conceptual multimedia exhibit focusing on past immigration from Italy to America in the early 20th century and the current surge of immigration into Sicily. Pay a visit this season and check out their gift shop as well. The museum is open Friday-Sunday from 12-6pm.

Feast of San Gennaro

This is the 91st Annual Feast of San Gennaro, NYC’s oldest and largest religious street festival. During the Feast of San Gennaro, held from Sept. 14-24, there are two processions, each featuring the Statue of San Gennaro. The Grand Procession on Sept. 16 involves floats, marching bands, and more with Chazz Palminteri serving as the Grand Marshal. The Religious Procession takes place on Sept. 19 and also involves a Solemn High Mass celebrating the Patron Saint of Naples. The annual Feast of San Gennaro has free music and entertainment and plenty of food for purchase—there's even an annual cannoli eating competition on Sept. 15.

Annual Columbus Day Parade

columbus day parade nyc

More than 35,000 marchers, 100 groups, and close to one million spectators will participate in the 2017 Columbus Day Parade in the heart of NYC. This parade is the world’s largest celebration of Italian-American culture. Columbus Day marks the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the Americas. See bands, floats, costumes, and so much more with the kids for a day they’ll never forget. The parade marches up Fifth Avenue from 44th Street to 72nd Street on Oct. 9 from 11:30am-3pm. The 2017 Grand Marshal, Leonard Riggio, the founder and chairman of Barnes & Noble, created this year's theme: A Celebration of Italian-American Authors.

Italian Harlem

Visit a special section of East Harlem known for its surge of Southern Italian immigrants who arrived in America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This area was considered “Little Italy” before the area which we now know to be Little Italy came about. Each summer, visitors come to see the 3-day festival called Dancing of the Giglio, where an 80-foot tower is carried through the streets to honor Giglio di Sant Antonio.

There are some notable restaurants in the area including Rao’s, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, and Patsy’s Pizzeria for one of the best slices in New York. Bring your appetite!

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Center for Italian Modern Art

This non-profit exhibition and research center was created to promote the appreciation of modern and contemporary Italian art in the United States and abroad. The SoHo loft is spacious and exciting and new installations make each visit educational as well as entertaining. The center is open on Fridays and Saturdays and it also holds special events, tours, and conversations. Pay a visit and marvel at the Italian masterpieces!

Westchester Italian Cultural Center

The Westchester Italian Cultural Center was established to celebrate the rich heritage of modern and past Italian culture. The center instills an appreciation of the Italian language, arts, history, cuisine, and commerce. Special exhibits, events, and programming are offered. There is a library, a wine cellar, an exhibit hall, a kitchen, and more unique spaces to explore. Pay a visit, celebrate the center's 10th anniversary, and become enriched with Italian tradition and culture from all aspects.

Garibaldi-Meucci Museum

garibaldi meucci museum

The Garibaldi-Meucci Museum was once the residence of Antonio Meucci, who is considered to be the true inventor of the telephone. The space was also a refuge to Giuseppe Garibaldo who was a hero in the unification of Italy. The museum’s mission is to preserve the legacies of these two men and it has done so for more than 50 years. Italian-American heritage and culture is brought to life via art programs, educational classes, and the like. The museum is open to visitors Wednesday–Saturday.

Bronx Little Italy

The Belmont section of the Bronx is considered Bronx Little Italy. Here you can eat delicious breads, pastas, meats, pastries, Italian sausage, and more wonderful authentic Italian edibles. Many Italian immigrants made this area their home and the shops in the area hold onto tradition.

Some attractions in the area include Ciccarone Park with open space for kids to play; Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church; and Belmont Library & Enrico Fermi Cultural Center with a facility dedicated to Italian-American Heritage; and of course, nearby is the beloved Bronx Zoo!

St. John’s University Italian Cultural Center

The Italian Cultural Center was established in 1992 at St. John’s University. The center conducts a wide array of educational and cultural activities that increase awareness of Italian-American culture and heritage. The center’s mission is to preserve and celebrate Italian and Italian-American culture, values, and history. Events such as concerts, operas, plays, art exhibits, and more make for a nice afternoon or evening with the family. 

Hoboken Italian Festival

hoboken italian festival

The Hoboken Italian Festival is an exciting celebration of Italian culture, heritage, and tradition. Since 1926, the festival is a modern day interpretation of the Madonna Dei Martiri, which commemorates the blessings of the Madonna. During the festival, families can go on carnival rides, play games, hear live music, and enjoy tons of delicious Italian food from vendors. The festival takes place from Sept. 7-10 and the procession is on Sept. 9—mark your calendars!

25th Annual Italian Festival

On Sept. 17 from 11-5pm, visit Hofstra for an Italian celebration. The Italian Festival has become a popular Long Island tradition, celebrating Italian culture, education, and commerce in the states. Once a year, Hofstra presents an Italian festival which brings thousands of people to the university to celebrate. Enjoy Italian-inspired food, vendors, crafts, exhibits by cultural organizations, music, dance, poetry, and more!


Cultural Events In the NYC Metro Area

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