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View Poll Results: Which Italian enclave is the most authentic?
Little Italy, Manhattan 39 76.47%
North Beach, San Francisco 12 23.53%
Voters: 51. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 05-27-2014, 05:15 PM
 
Location: The City
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I have had some of the best Persian food in North Beach

Today Little Italy feels a tad more Italian but so dominated by Chinatown much larger surrounding it. North Beach feels less authentic and more like a bar area than an Italian enclave to me but little Italy in Manhattan is kitschy and touristy mostly.

Neither feel all that authentic to me.

Also nearly all italian enclaves (Boston North End, Providence, Chambersburg Trenton, South Philly (probably the furthest inland of the bunch more similar in distance to North beach or at least the strip there), Little Italy Baltimore) are basically right on the water for what that is worth

To me as many said the North End does not have the dominant italian feel as many other areas I have been. Italian influence is more pronounced on the East coast though SF does have a pretty substantial italian history - BOA is originally the bank of Italy I believe started for Italian immigrants in the SF area. Also I believe immigrants were pretty instrumental in NAPA as well but Italian tradition feels further removed in SF based on my experience
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Old 05-27-2014, 05:50 PM
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Location: Western Massachusetts
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kidphilly View Post

Also nearly all italian enclaves (Boston North End, Providence, Chambersburg Trenton, South Philly (probably the furthest inland of the bunch more similar in distance to North beach or at least the strip there), Little Italy Baltimore) are basically right on the water for what that is worth
I don't think that's a coincedence; many Italians worked in port-related jobs when they first came here.
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Old 05-27-2014, 07:13 PM
 
Location: Chicago, IL
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Quote:
Originally Posted by waronxmas View Post
I did and it doesn't change a single thing about what I wrote. While there are parallels between both neighborhoods (you can find parallels between anything really) in that they once were the epicenter of Italian-American culture in their cities and have since transitioned in to something else, that's about it.

Even if Little Italy is no longer strickly mostly Italian, it is the cultural birth place of Italian-American culture in New York City and Italian-American culture is one of the major cornerstones of the larger New York culture to the point that NYC would not be NYC without it. The same cannot be said for San Francisco, but it is true of dozens of other cities not named San Francisco, bro.
I totally get what you're saying, but it is most definitely an underexaggeration to say that San Francisco's Little Italy has not played a large role in the defining of the city's historical and cultural signifance in American society. For example, Jack Kerouac wrote the first poems that would ultimately ignite the Beat movement at Vesuvio Cafe, just off Columbus. Adjacent and across the alley of his namesake is City Lights Bookstore, where Lawrence Ferlinghetti published quite a few Beat generation books and helped to spread the movement around the country.
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Old 05-27-2014, 08:07 PM
 
Location: the Orion Spur
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Quote:
Originally Posted by waronxmas View Post
I can think of about a dozen or more cities that would be well suited to be put up against NYC in a battle of Italian-American culture. San Francisco is not one of them.
Nothing about North Beach felt like authentic Italian, even more so when compared to other cities with Italian neighborhoods.
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Old 05-27-2014, 08:18 PM
 
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No one is saying otherwise, but that is not the point of the thread..
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Old 05-28-2014, 12:54 AM
 
Location: San Francisco
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I felt obligated to vote Little Italy and did not hesitate to do so, but having lived adjacent to North Beach for a year, and reading some people's comments on this thread made me do some research. I wish I could change my vote to North Beach.

The New York Post has this to say in a March 30, 2014 article titled Changing Times Pushing Little Italy to Brink of Extinction.

Quote:
Rising rents and changing demographics have driven Little Italy to the verge of extinction. Once a teeming neighborhood stretching 50 square blocks, it now barely covers three blocks of Mulberry Street and even that strip is under threat.
Also according to a September issue of New York magazine, Little Italy's peak was in 1910 when it contained 10,000 Italians. How much larger could that have been than North Beach? Honestly? NYC as a whole is undoubtedly WAYYY more Italian in general than SF or almost anywhere else, but as individual historic immigrant neighborhoods, what we call Little Italy today is not much more, if at all, than North Beach, either today, or back in the day.


I would venture a guess that the comparison to North Beach is simply a result of similar circumstances. Both neighborhoods were the proportionately similar Italian epicenters of their respective cities, and both are in very expensive, gentrifying areas that are attracting lots of young professionals and resulting gentrification. Both are also being encroached on by the country's two largest historic Chinatowns. Both are also very touristy. So there are definitely similarities not necessarily shared by most other historic Italian neighborhoods around the country, which could explain why other Italian areas might feel more "authentic" in 2014 than either North Beach or Little Italy.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Mantronix4204 View Post
Nothing about North Beach felt like authentic Italian, even more so when compared to other cities with Italian neighborhoods.
To say "NOTHING" felt authentic to you is a little odd. Most Italians from the area have packed up permanent residency for other parts of the city and metro, just as nearly ALL Italians from Little Italy have done the same. However, many Italian businesses still remain, and are owned and staffed by Italians who may mostly commute in, but some still do live in the area (likely upstairs). Clearly you are exaggerating, since North Beach has been historically Italian since the Gold Rush and contains dozens of businesses that are still in operation under family ownership for 50-75+ years (some are in continuous operation for 100+ years).

Besides, having been to Little Italy (which quite honestly feels smaller in area than North Beach, even if it is "denser"), you are easily just as likely to hear natural Italian spoken in North Beach, if not more likely. I'm not claiming that it's as likely as parts of Boston, other parts of NYC besides Little Italy, parts of Providence, etc, but it's almost impossible not to hear Italians speaking in native tongue in North Beach if you walk through without head phones and pay attention...or eat at any number of dozens of Italian restaurants and businesses to choose from.


Quote:
Originally Posted by garyjohnyang View Post
I totally get what you're saying, but it is most definitely an underexaggeration to say that San Francisco's Little Italy has not played a large role in the defining of the city's historical and cultural signifance in American society. For example, Jack Kerouac wrote the first poems that would ultimately ignite the Beat movement at Vesuvio Cafe, just off Columbus. Adjacent and across the alley of his namesake is City Lights Bookstore, where Lawrence Ferlinghetti published quite a few Beat generation books and helped to spread the movement around the country.

Just to add:

Joe DiMaggio grew up in the neighborhood and married Marilyn Monroe at Saints Peter and Paul Church on Washington Square (church nicknamed the Italian Cathedral of the West)

SF mayor who oversaw the most radical times in the city (60s/70s) is Joseph Alioto, from the neighborhood. It's reputed that Alioto was close friends with Jimmy Lanza, the head of the SF crime family until 1996.

1940s SF mayor was Angelo Joseph Rossi, from the neighborhood as well.

Tom Ammiano is the current state representative for the neighborhood (and is openy gay as other trivia...one of the City's other representative at the state level is also gay, not surprisingly).

Another church in the area is very very Italian looking and is the 1860 vintage National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi (it was founded in 1849 and built as it appears today in 1860).

Italian American food staples invented in North Beach

Cioppino - invented in 1865 by a guy named Achille Paladini, who came to SF from Ancona, Italy.

Chicken Tetrazzini - first created in 1910 by Luisa Tetrazzini, an Italian opera singer who sung for the SF Opera.

SF's Boudin Bakery may have been started by a French man, but was bought in 1941 by the Giraudo family of Italy (well they moved to SF) and grown into what it is today under Italian American ownership.

Fior d'Italia is the oldest Italian-American restaurant in the country still in operation, after 128 years. It's not on Columbus, which is what all non-SF residents/tourists think of when they think of North Beach. It's a block or two off on Mason, which is still in Italian (and Chinese on other side of Broadway) territory.


Quote:
Originally Posted by nei View Post
I don't think that's a coincedence; many Italians worked in port-related jobs when they first came here.
Expanding on this:

SF's Italian area of North Beach is bordered by Fisherman's Wharf, which is the historic fishing village of the city and while *extremely* kitschy and touristy still retains a lot of its older businesses, including Alioto's restaurant (Italian seafood).

The Jackson Square area (the infamous Barbary Coast), where I lived for a year, is a historic industrial area that also borders the neighborhood and contains an impressive array of old brick warehouse stock, now home to loft residences and office, and fancy wine bars and restaurants, antique shops, design shops, and galleries. The shipping wharves surround this area.


I digress...North Beach isn't an "insignificant" part of SF or its history and at one time was very very Italian, much like Little Italy. I'm not so sure it wouldn't be too difficult to argue "authenticity" between the two in today's modern times.


One thing that is NOT similar to NYC or any of the East Coast/Midwest Italian neighborhoods/histories is LCN. SF apparently only had 20-25 made men in its family at any given time, which is insignificant compared to much smaller cities even in the Midwest, such as KC or STL, or Los Angeles to the south. But both Little Italy and North Beach have contributed to both Italian-American specific culture and general American culture, and both have resulted staple American foods, which is not something that can be said of all Italian neighborhoods.
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Old 05-28-2014, 03:17 AM
 
Location: the Orion Spur
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsimms3 View Post
I felt obligated to vote Little Italy and did not hesitate to do so, but having lived adjacent to North Beach for a year, and reading some people's comments on this thread made me do some research. I wish I could change my vote to North Beach.

The New York Post has this to say in a March 30, 2014 article titled Changing Times Pushing Little Italy to Brink of Extinction.

Also according to a September issue of New York magazine, Little Italy's peak was in 1910 when it contained 10,000 Italians. How much larger could that have been than North Beach? Honestly? NYC as a whole is undoubtedly WAYYY more Italian in general than SF or almost anywhere else, but as individual historic immigrant neighborhoods, what we call Little Italy today is not much more, if at all, than North Beach, either today, or back in the day.

I would venture a guess that the comparison to North Beach is simply a result of similar circumstances. Both neighborhoods were the proportionately similar Italian epicenters of their respective cities, and both are in very expensive, gentrifying areas that are attracting lots of young professionals and resulting gentrification. Both are also being encroached on by the country's two largest historic Chinatowns. Both are also very touristy. So there are definitely similarities not necessarily shared by most other historic Italian neighborhoods around the country, which could explain why other Italian areas might feel more "authentic" in 2014 than either North Beach or Little Italy.

To say "NOTHING" felt authentic to you is a little odd. Most Italians from the area have packed up permanent residency for other parts of the city and metro, just as nearly ALL Italians from Little Italy have done the same. However, many Italian businesses still remain, and are owned and staffed by Italians who may mostly commute in, but some still do live in the area (likely upstairs). Clearly you are exaggerating, since North Beach has been historically Italian since the Gold Rush and contains dozens of businesses that are still in operation under family ownership for 50-75+ years (some are in continuous operation for 100+ years).

Besides, having been to Little Italy (which quite honestly feels smaller in area than North Beach, even if it is "denser"), you are easily just as likely to hear natural Italian spoken in North Beach, if not more likely. I'm not claiming that it's as likely as parts of Boston, other parts of NYC besides Little Italy, parts of Providence, etc, but it's almost impossible not to hear Italians speaking in native tongue in North Beach if you walk through without head phones and pay attention...or eat at any number of dozens of Italian restaurants and businesses to choose from.

Just to add:

Joe DiMaggio grew up in the neighborhood and married Marilyn Monroe at Saints Peter and Paul Church on Washington Square (church nicknamed the Italian Cathedral of the West)

SF mayor who oversaw the most radical times in the city (60s/70s) is Joseph Alioto, from the neighborhood. It's reputed that Alioto was close friends with Jimmy Lanza, the head of the SF crime family until 1996.

1940s SF mayor was Angelo Joseph Rossi, from the neighborhood as well.

Tom Ammiano is the current state representative for the neighborhood (and is openy gay as other trivia...one of the City's other representative at the state level is also gay, not surprisingly).

Another church in the area is very very Italian looking and is the 1860 vintage National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi (it was founded in 1849 and built as it appears today in 1860).

Italian American food staples invented in North Beach

Cioppino - invented in 1865 by a guy named Achille Paladini, who came to SF from Ancona, Italy.

Chicken Tetrazzini - first created in 1910 by Luisa Tetrazzini, an Italian opera singer who sung for the SF Opera.

SF's Boudin Bakery may have been started by a French man, but was bought in 1941 by the Giraudo family of Italy (well they moved to SF) and grown into what it is today under Italian American ownership.

Fior d'Italia is the oldest Italian-American restaurant in the country still in operation, after 128 years. It's not on Columbus, which is what all non-SF residents/tourists think of when they think of North Beach. It's a block or two off on Mason, which is still in Italian (and Chinese on other side of Broadway) territory.

Expanding on this:

SF's Italian area of North Beach is bordered by Fisherman's Wharf, which is the historic fishing village of the city and while *extremely* kitschy and touristy still retains a lot of its older businesses, including Alioto's restaurant (Italian seafood).

The Jackson Square area (the infamous Barbary Coast), where I lived for a year, is a historic industrial area that also borders the neighborhood and contains an impressive array of old brick warehouse stock, now home to loft residences and office, and fancy wine bars and restaurants, antique shops, design shops, and galleries. The shipping wharves surround this area.

I digress...North Beach isn't an "insignificant" part of SF or its history and at one time was very very Italian, much like Little Italy. I'm not so sure it wouldn't be too difficult to argue "authenticity" between the two in today's modern times.

One thing that is NOT similar to NYC or any of the East Coast/Midwest Italian neighborhoods/histories is LCN. SF apparently only had 20-25 made men in its family at any given time, which is insignificant compared to much smaller cities even in the Midwest, such as KC or STL, or Los Angeles to the south. But both Little Italy and North Beach have contributed to both Italian-American specific culture and general American culture, and both have resulted staple American foods, which is not something that can be said of all Italian neighborhoods.

Like RadicalAtheist said to waronxmas - "Cool story, not really what the thread is about though. See: OP's questions."

It doesn't feel authentic. Why don't you show us show some street views, and I'll be happy to change my mind. Just off the top of my head, show us some butcher shops where you can get authentic Italian-styled meats in North Beach.
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Old 05-28-2014, 07:23 AM
 
Location: ITP - City of Atlanta Proper
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Originally Posted by RadicalAtheist View Post
So your answer to the OP's questions regarding the two neighborhoods in these two cities is that there are dozens of others neighborhoods in dozens of other cities that are more suited for a thread about North Beach & Little Italy? Interesting, perhaps instead you should post in those other existing thread comparisons?


What I'm saying is that it's a waste of time to compare the two because they are no where near equal in anyway. On the one hand you have a neighborhood in a city of minor stature who's Italian population peaked over a century ago versus one of the epicenters of the Italian diaspora. The factors that influenced how they are today are totally different.

And that's where my point remains: There are dozens of other cities in this country with neighborhood with which one could compare to NYC's Little Italy past and present that would be a lot more worthwhile. This is about as interesting as comparing NYC's Little Italy to whatever early-20th Italian enclave existed in Kansas City or Birmingham, Alabama.
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Old 05-28-2014, 10:21 AM
 
Location: San Francisco
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Originally Posted by Mantronix4204 View Post
Like RadicalAtheist said to waronxmas - "Cool story, not really what the thread is about though. See: OP's questions."

It doesn't feel authentic. Why don't you show us show some street views, and I'll be happy to change my mind. Just off the top of my head, show us some butcher shops where you can get authentic Italian-styled meats in North Beach.
You don't get more East Meets West than this. Little City Market (a butcher) with its red awning has been around for decades, now a Chinese market is on an opposite corner with a green awning, so the Italian colors remain, lol.

http://goo.gl/maps/QFamw

Molinari is a deli that has been at this location since 1895. In this street view there is not a non-Italian business in site, and there is an 1860 church as well.

http://goo.gl/maps/4XgM4

Not that Little City Market is on Columbus, it's on Stockton (which is known more for Chinatown now), but North Beach is not a one street pony. Below is Green St.

http://goo.gl/maps/Piqmx

Union and Stockton:

http://goo.gl/maps/orC0P

A bespoke custom suit/hat/fabric clothier, Al's Attire (on Grant), apparently his customers include event designer Stanley Gatti, Rob Schneider, and Carlos Santana:

http://goo.gl/maps/CzytY

And who can forget the most famous building in the entire area, Francis Ford Coppola's "Columbus Tower", circa 1907 (aka Sentinel Building). Coppola's American Zoetrope studio (co-founded with George Lucas) is based here, and the movie has starred in many a movie, notably Interview with a Vampire if I recall from memory the beginning and end of that movie. His restaurant, which is a branch from his Napa winery, is at the bottom:

http://goo.gl/maps/hs1EU



Quote:
Originally Posted by waronxmas View Post

This is about as interesting as comparing NYC's Little Italy to whatever early-20th Italian enclave existed in Kansas City or Birmingham, Alabama.
Now I can tell that you haven't been to both to compare. Your point may stand better IF we were discussing full-on Italian heritage and all Italian neighborhoods, but we're comparing two quite comparable touristy relics of their past.



Now before anyone asks for PROOF that SF still has some Italian heritage stuff left in its original Italian hood, of course assuming that Little Italy is this huge, authentic Italian neighborhood in NYC, I invite everyone to explore BOTH with Street View. I actually have my own pictures that I don't care to upload right now, so I'll stick with street view and these two "maps" of their extents in the urban environments in which they are:


Little Italy in NYC (literally a street view will show anyone that very sadly this is almost a fossil of an Italian neighborhood at this point...it's 2.5 touristy blocks at best, and while a couple corners are cute...go there NOW if you haven't because these blocks may not be there in 10 years!):




North Beach in SF - the same, a relic of its past, but not nearly as "destroyed" in scale as Little Italy in Manhattan. Chinatown is encroaching as evidenced by my Little City Market street view above, and the area is touristy, but it's still functioning, somewhat. Something tells me one might hear more Italian naturally spoken in a non-touristy setting in North Beach than Little Italy:

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Old 05-28-2014, 10:24 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsimms3 View Post

The New York Post has this to say in a March 30, 2014 article titled Changing Times Pushing Little Italy to Brink of Extinction.



Also according to a September issue of New York magazine, Little Italy's peak was in 1910 when it contained 10,000 Italians. How much larger could that have been than North Beach? Honestly? NYC as a whole is undoubtedly WAYYY more Italian in general than SF or almost anywhere else, but as individual historic immigrant neighborhoods, what we call Little Italy today is not much more, if at all, than North Beach, either today, or back in the day.
Italian East Harlem was bigger than Little Italy, but lesser known because it did not remain very Italian while Little Italy is the Italian tourist attraction. Little Italy (much of the whole Lower East Side, really) was the original Italian enclave in NYC. Little Italy was larger then than it is today, and it began as a really authentic neighborhood. The natives (Americans) called Italian enclaves in NYC "colonies" because they were like foreign outposts on American soil, and the Italians at first did not want to integrate into American culture and actually planned on moving back home after earning money in the US, and many did for the first few years. The Italians in NYC were tightly knit and did not like outsiders. They tried to keep their neighborhoods as similar to home as possible in culture and how they functioned. In 1890, more than half the city's Italian residents lived below 14th Street, in the much broader Italian area than exists now (there were actually 3 Little Italy's bordering one another plus another up in Harlem), and well over 4 million Italians came through Ellis Island, with a good number of them staying in NYC. That 10,000 number may be correct if we're referring to Little Italy as it's known today but back then the Italians dominated lower Manhattan, and the Italian enclave of the area was much bigger. Italian East Harlem was the bigger area, anyway. The only reason nobody cares about it anymore is because it hasn't really retained any Italian-ness, while Little Italy still has the restaurants and feasts and is the touristy area. Somehow that's just the way it worked out.

At the time (1880-1930), I think Little Italy would "win" this poll but now, it is not very Italian at all (and I know absolutely nothing about SF's). It is like a tourist attraction that allows visitors to remember the time when it was a predominantly and authentic Italian area. Now, it barely exists (Chinatown is creeping in) and there are barely any Italians left. Food's still good, though, and the San Gennaro Feast is fun.

In the days of the immigration boom to NYC, Manhattan also had other Italian enclaves, including Italian East Harlem, and Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx had many outposts as well. People quickly started moving out of Little Italy but it still remained pretty strong until the 60s, and is by far the most famous. Staten Island didn't become Italian (or anything really) until the VZ Bridge was built in the 60s, but today it is extremely Italian still. Go to the outer boroughs if you want true Italian, it blows SF out of the water. As a whole NYC is much more Italian, it's really no contest, but comparing the touristy Italian neighborhoods is kind of pointless because they are not nearly as authentic as either they used to be, or the non-touristy areas that are very Italian but get little attention. What are we comparing, really?

Last edited by JerseyGirl415; 05-28-2014 at 10:35 AM..
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