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Bleecker Street's Little Italy

Little Italy can be besieged by slow-moving crowds, touristy shops, and restaurant hosts hollering invites as you pass to dine inside. Bleecker Street between 6th and 7th avenues, with its crowded cafés, bakeries, pizza parlors, and old-world merchants, seems more vital as a true Italian neighborhood.

For an authentic Italian bakery experience, step into Pasticerria Rocco (No. 243) for wonderful cannoli, cream puffs, and cookies packed up, or order an espresso and linger over the treats.

Step into the past at the old-style butcher shops, such as Ottomanelli & Sons (No. 285) and Faicco's Pork Store (No. 260), where Italian locals have gotten their pork custom cut since 1900.

The sweet (or stinky) smell of success seems nowhere more evident than at Murray's Cheese (No. 254), at Cornelia Street. The original shop, opened in 1940 by Murray Greenberg (not Italian), was not much larger than the display case that stocked the stuff. Now it's a fromage fiend's emporium, with everything from imported crackers and bamboo cutting boards to a full-service sandwich counter. Samples of cheese, gelato, salami, and other goodies are frequently offered.

In a town that's fierce about its pizza, some New Yorkers swear by John's Pizzeria (No. 278). But be forewarned: they do whole thin-crust pies only—no individual slices. Luckily, one of the city's best slice joints is right around the corner, Joe's Pizza (7 Carmine Street). To complicate the Bleecker Street pizza situation further, newcomer Kesté Pizza & Vino (271 Bleecker Street) is serving up Neapolitan pies that some would argue give even Da Michele in Naples a run for its money. It is also the official location in the United States for the Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani, whose mission is to protect and promote the Neapolitan pizza tradition.

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