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A piece of Montreal’s Little Italy in New York!

A journey to discover what links Montreal’s Petite-Italie to Manhattan’s Little Italy

On New Year's Eve, we traveled to New York. Of course, a visit to Manhattan's Little Italy was a must!

When away from home, we are often inspired to make comparisons, to find similarities and differences between the country of departure and that one we’re visiting. I have lived in Montreal's Little Italy for more than three years and I have developed a special affection for the neighborhood, a kind of pride that we sometime associate with typical soccer fans behaviors!

As soon as I arrived in Manhattan's Little Italy, I spontaneously started playing the game of finding differences and similarities between the two districts in order to determine who the winner was!

The territory of NYC Little Italy has shrunk a lot over the years and has been gradually integrated into Chinatown. However, the shops on the Mulberry Street remain proud and majestic: the visual impact is strong and charming! Among the colorful restaurants, the smell of pizzerias and pastries, with their giant cannoli, the area has become a tourist mecca and sellers work hard to attract customers strolling on congested sidewalks, looking for souvenirs in a general bustle that gives the atmosphere of a chaotic and typically Italian market.

In Montreal, despite its own reduction in territory, Little Italy’s Italian fiber is still going strong and dynamic. The neighborhood reveals its inclusive and welcoming spirit where no one has ever felt confined, but where opportunities has been available to all (and still are). The Italian character is felt in the colors, scents and attitude in the busy cafes. The italian speaking persists, it is one of the three languages ​​spoken in the neighborhood, local traditions follow the change of seasons and harvest time, the religious calendar is still important with its many festivals. The slow and friendly lifestyle is more typical of a village than a city!

But ultimately, is it really interesting to find the differences and similarities between these two Little Italy districts? I discovered that it is better to leave the comparisons aside, because when traveling, we understand that each place has its own history and its own conditions, always different, which make each place unique: there are no copies!

So, what does New York’s Little Italy has in common with Montreal’s Petite-Italie; two neighborhoods developed by a community of Italian immigrants, who aspire not to be dispersed so as not to be forgotten?

At the end of the 90s, a contact was established between merchants from both neighborhoods and the two communities came together. Here is a tangible sign:

The plaque is made by dark green granite stone (manufactured by Paul Lavallée, Laval).

This commemorative plaque symbolizes the proximity of the two neighborhoods and is located in New York's Most Precious Blood Church, inside the San Gennaro Chapel.

The plaque is located at the bottom of the statue of San Gennaro.

Interior of Most Precious Blood Church, Bulberry Street.

The story tells that a group of police officers from the Petite-Italie neighborhood police station (SPVM), which at the time was located in the actual fireman's Caserne 31 (St-Dominique street), organized a cycling competition with their cousins from USA. The goal: bike from Montreal to New York and return to Montreal in time for the San Gennaro procession on September 19th.

The Little Italy Promotional Association (APPI), founded in the nineties by local merchants, asked the police officers to deliver the commemorative plaque, as a gift, to the Italian community of New York City.

Police officers from Montreal and New York participating in the challenge. (St-Laurent boulevard corner Jean-Talon street)

Official celebration of the arrival with the members of the APPI, during the feast of San Gennaro.

Personally, I found in the Montreal’s Little Italy an absolutely authentic district: it is not Italy but the result of a perfect marriage that persists between two cultures (and more) mixed for more than four generations, giving rise to something special and unique.

Finally, the will to stay connected is always present, despite differences and changes.

 

Long live Little Italy!

Longue vie aux Petite-Italie!

Viva le Piccola Italia!