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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 05-25-2014, 09:49 PM
 
Location: Chicago, IL
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Little Italy in Lower Manhattan and North Beach in San Francisco are two prime examples of Italian enclaves that were formerly populated with their respective name sakes but are now seen as prominent tourist areas in their cities. Both are near the water, border Chinatown, and are very densely populated in comparison to surrounding neighborhoods. Little Italy in Manhattan centers on Mulberry Street, while North Beach in San Francisco is centered on Columbus Avenue. I have been to both fairly recently, and have a few questions for people familiar with them: which enclave is seen as more authentic in terms of restaurants, bars, boutiques, and other businesses? Which is more of an epicenter for the area's Italian population? Which locale offers a more pleasurable walking experience and is more frequented by locals? Thank you,
garyjohnyang
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Old 05-25-2014, 10:35 PM
 
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Is this a joke? There are probably about as many Italian-American NYC residents as there are San Francisco residents.

And Manhattan Little Italy hasn't been an Italian residential neighborhood in around 50 years. SF North Beach barely even has Italian businesses anymore.

Why not look at actual Italian neighborhoods (like Morris Park in Bronx, Middle Village or Howard Beach or Whitestone in Queens, Dyker Heights or Bergen Beach in Brooklyn, or like half of Staten Island?)

And if you want more commercial Little Italy legacy areas, why not Arthur Ave, Bensonhurst, Carroll Gardens, Avenue U, or Bath Beach?
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Old 05-25-2014, 10:52 PM
 
Location: Chicago, IL
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Standard111 View Post
Is this a joke? There are probably about as many Italian-American NYC residents as there are San Francisco residents.

And Manhattan Little Italy hasn't been an Italian residential neighborhood in around 50 years. SF North Beach barely even has Italian businesses anymore.

Why not look at actual Italian neighborhoods (like Morris Park in Bronx, Middle Village or Howard Beach or Whitestone in Queens, Dyker Heights or Bergen Beach in Brooklyn, or like half of Staten Island?)

And if you want more commercial Little Italy legacy areas, why not Arthur Ave, Bensonhurst, Carroll Gardens, Avenue U, or Bath Beach?
While it's true that NYC has many more Italian residents than San Francisco, comparing the outer neighborhoods would be counterintuitive considering that NY's Italian community is much larger and more established. But a better contest, in my opinion, is between the two cities' first and most well known enclaves. Neither of the locales impressed me as much as say, Chinatown, but yes I do believe this is a fair competition, and yes, I acknowledge that Manhattan's Little Italy is by no means representative of the NY Italian population as a whole. San Francisco doesn't really have an equivalent of the aforementioned neighborhoods. But Little Italy and North Beach are the ones that most tourists see, so it might give an outsider a different impression than if they were to visit an ethnic neighborhood in one of the outer boroughs or other parts of the Bay Area. As historically significant places, the relevance of both is decreasing as more and more Italians are priced out or just replaced by encroaching Chinese businesses, so I thought it would be fitting to commemorate the lingering cultural merits of both in a poll. Also, while NY's Italian community is absolutely huge, it still does not match the population of San Francisco (~850k). The latest estimates have the number of Italians in New York City at quite a bit less than 600k.
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Old 05-25-2014, 11:13 PM
 
Location: Prince George's County, Maryland
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Are there any other Italian American communities and enclaves throughout the rest of the Bay Area or is/was North Beach the only one?
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Old 05-25-2014, 11:31 PM
 
Location: Chicago, IL
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Originally Posted by tcave360 View Post
Are there any other Italian American communities and enclaves throughout the rest of the Bay Area or is/was North Beach the only one?
There are virtually no other distinct Italian communities in the Bay Area. There's a purported "Little Italy" in San Jose, but it's TINY. There are literally four businesses there according to the San Jose Downtown Association: Little Italy - Downtown San Jose: Silicon Valley's City Center
I know a few Italians who go to the Colombo Club in Oakland, but as far as I can tell, there aren't many other Italian establishments in the vicinity. Most visitors to the Bay Area would go to the one in San Francisco for a true ethnic experience. North Beach San Francisco | Restaurants | Shopping | Things to do has a pretty good rundown of Italian businesses in the area.
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Old 05-26-2014, 01:36 AM
 
Location: the Orion Spur
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Little Italy is like a huge, stuffed Calzone.
North Beach is like a refreshing bowl of Spumoni.

Italian Ancestry:
NYC: 550,000
SF: 33,000

NYC

SF

SF

SF

SF

SF

SF

SF
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Old 05-26-2014, 01:47 AM
 
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NYC is 6.5% & SF is just under 4% according to those numbers.
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Old 05-26-2014, 03:15 AM
 
Location: Oroville, California
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They're both now basically a Chinese neighborhood with an Italian facade filled with tourists who don't know or care.
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Old 05-26-2014, 05:08 PM
 
Location: Boston
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Originally Posted by BeauCharles View Post
They're both now basically a Chinese neighborhood with an Italian facade filled with tourists who don't know or care.
This is fairly accurate. I still maintain that the most authentic Italian enclave I've been to recently in the U.S. is Federal Hill in Providence and even that has seen a good chunk of its Italian heritage move out to the 'burbs.

North Beach in San Francisco is a great neighborhood. However, I don't think it compares to the Italian enclaves in cities like Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Boston or even Providence as far as the lasting Italian influence goes. It's definitely an enclave, but I don't consider it to have nearly the concentration of Italian people, stores, restaurants, activities and events that the other cities I mentioned do.
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Old 05-26-2014, 07:55 PM
 
Location: Baghdad by the Bay (San Francisco, California)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lrfox View Post
This is fairly accurate. I still maintain that the most authentic Italian enclave I've been to recently in the U.S. is Federal Hill in Providence and even that has seen a good chunk of its Italian heritage move out to the 'burbs.

North Beach in San Francisco is a great neighborhood. However, I don't think it compares to the Italian enclaves in cities like Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Boston or even Providence as far as the lasting Italian influence goes. It's definitely an enclave, but I don't consider it to have nearly the concentration of Italian people, stores, restaurants, activities and events that the other cities I mentioned do.
I tend to agree with this except for the bit about North Beach being a Chinese neighborhood. There is no Chinese influence at all visible north of Columbus.

I think there is still an Italian presence in North Beach. However, it is mostly the symbolic center of the Italian community in SF. That said, during the North Beach festival, when restaurants put long family-style tables in the street for blocks and on weekends when Washington Square Park is full of artists showing their work, people eating gelato, old men playing chess and reading the newspaper, saxophonists echoing in the alleys, the bells of Sts. Peter and Paul ringing, and people chatting over wine and coffee at cafes, it feels a bit like Piazza Navona.

In contrast, the few times I've spent more than a few hours in Little Italy, NYC, I found it to be far less interesting even as a tourist attraction. The Italian community of NYC is larger and more ingrained in its culture, for sure, but not as evidenced by Little Italy.
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