New York Daily Photo Analytics

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mulberry Street



I so looked forward to my visit to Aix en Provence in the South of France. Everything I had read spoke of it as the quintessential cafe society experience. In New York City, there is a limited amount of quality street side cafe or restaurant seating. In most cases one must suffer the slings and arrows of anything and everything that passes by. Often, tables are placed on sidewalks much too narrow for adequate separation; the sense is that you really are eating on the street. Diners are often accosted by panhandlers and the like.
So for a New Yorker, Aix was paradisaical - wide sidewalks and a clean environment.

However, this is Mulberry Street in the heart of Little Italy. Beginning in 1996, three blocks from Broome to Canal Streets are closed to vehicles during the summer months, turning the street into a pedestrian mall. In September, the street is closed for the annual Feast of San Gennaro festival.

Outdoor seating for restaurants and cafes line Mulberry Street. Restaurant barkers solicit business from passersby. Add heat to the equation, and it will take a certain je ne sais quoi to enjoy eating in this zoo-like atmosphere.

A visitor to the area will also find the surrounding area dominated by Chinese merchants. Neighboring streets (such as Mott Street, one block east of Mulberry) have seen the encroachment of Chinatown. Little Italy has become essentially a small pocket of nostalgia, a virtual postcard snapshot of this historic neighborhood.

I cannot heartily recommend any particular restaurants here (or eating on the street). If you choose to try something on the street, I recommend eating guides such as the Zagat Survey or Yelp. Many residents pan the eating establishments here, but there are endorsers - in 2004, Mayor Rudy Giuliani cited Da Nico as his top pick for Italian in Little Italy. And yes, there has been Mafia mob presence on the street, as well as scandals.

If you have not been down Mulberry Street during the times it is closed to traffic, I do recommend a summer evening stroll where you can walk among the teeming masses. For an online virtual walking tour of Mulberry Street, go here to New York Songlines...

Photo Note: There is a very enjoyable book, New York Then and Now, which shows specific New York City locales using two photos, one earlier in time and one taken at the time of the book's publishing. In this spirit, today I have added a second archival photo showing a stretch of Mulberry Street, circa 1900.

12 comments:

An Honest Man said...

Brian, is that second photograph a hand-coloured one?

I rather enjoy looking at 'then and now' photos.

(BTW - the word verification for this comment was 'shuglyir' which has a distinctly Glasgow accent sound to it!

Brian Dubé said...

An Honest Man - Good question. Looking at the original and information, it does appear that this is an original color photo, however it also does appear that the image has been sharpened and altered in some ways. It is part of the Detroit Publishing Company Photograph Collection.

marley said...

That is a great contrast. I have a book of Cheltenham that shows old, long since dekolished buildings and what now replaces them. Very interesting but sad too. Some very fine buildings have been lost, like NYC I'm sure.

Mike said...

Aix food was awful. One cafe' had good French cafe' style (ham, cheese and fried egg on a slice of bread)the rest was bad. Most Cafes were pizza. Best food was a pork dish that was served at the work site in Cadarache. P.S Paris is loaded with panhandlers and scam artist most I've seen anywhere. I may have to return in Sept, not looking forward at all. Not the ugly American am I.

Brian Dubé said...

Marley - we have lost many great ones two. There are books that specialize in those images.
Mike - I hate to admit it, but I was a little disappointed with Aix. Nothing could have lived up to what I read. And I did not have anything to eat, just strolled the main street. I had similar experience in Paris at Les Deux Magots. But my experience many years ago was still better in France than in New York City. Sorry to here about ur recent experience there. Sounds like cross pollination, good and bad, is rapid now across international borders and waters.

célia said...

"je nais se qua" = je ne sais quoi ;)


a french reader from Paris

Brian Dubé said...

celia,
Oh my. I had checked the exact spelling - don't know how that was left. Thanks.

Mirela said...

So much and so little contrast! I love it!

Little Italy was one of my favorite parts in NYC, with an old man sitting in the street, next to his building entrance. I was looking for a recommended cafe and stopped to ask him where it is, to have him answer me in Italian. I had to repeat the question in Italian to get the answer... in the heart of NYC... very funny! :)

Ryan T said...

Great post Brian !! Excellent as always

y said...

i love this contrast...the streets actually look wider back then than now (smile). thank you!

Andrea (ace1028) said...

Beautiful shots! Oh, how I miss Little Italy. Maybe I'll make it back for the Feast this fall. Thanks for the memories!

Dozka said...

I love these two now and then photos. It's something about being to imagine how things were like in the past with structures that still exists today that makes it so beautiful.