Named for the mulberry farms that once stood here, Mulberry St is now better known as the meat in Little Italy's sauce. It's an animated strip, packed with smooth-talking restaurant hawkers (especially between Hester and Grand Sts), wisecracking baristas and a healthy dose of kitschy souvenirs.
Despite the neighborhood's many changes over the years, history looms large. It was inside restaurant Da Gennaro, formerly Umberto's Clam House, that 'Crazy Joe' Gallo was gunned down on April 2, 1972, an unexpected birthday surprise for the Brooklyn-born mobster. One block further north stands fourth-generation Alleva, one of the city's original cheese shops and famed for its mozzarella. Across the street on Grand lies another veteran, Ferrara Cafe & Bakery, celebrated for its classic Italian pastries and gelati. Back on Mulberry, old-time Mulberry Street Bar was a favorite haunt of the late Frank Sinatra; its own TV cameos include Law & Order and The Sopranos.
Alcohol was openly traded on the corner of Mulberry and Kenmare Sts during Prohibition, leading to its nickname, the 'Curb Exchange.' That police headquarters at the time were only a block away at 240 Centre St is testament to the power of good old-fashioned bribes. From this point north, the old-school delis and restaurants of Little Italy give way to the new-school boutiques, galleries and restaurants of Nolita. Take a gander at what was once the Ravenite Social Club to see how things have really changed around here. Now a designer shoe store, it was once a mobster hangout (originally known as the Alto Knights Social Club). Indeed, it was right here that big hitters such as Lucky Luciano and John Gotti (as well as the FBI, which kept a watchful eye from the building across the street) logged time. Only the shop's tile floor remains from the day, the shop windows once an intimidating brick wall.