The Remnants of La Dolce Vita in Brooklyn’s Italian Williamsburg

Alessandro Cinque captured daily life of Brooklyn’s Italian-Americans who have remained in (and are coming to) this small but not insignificant corner of the diaspora.

Comments: 21

  1. My entire life, in photographs. Thank you for the excellent piece and beautiful photos. My family arrived from Orria (Salerno) in 1915. We are still in Williamsburg, 104 years later. May we never be forced to leave it, as so many of us have.

  2. My mother’s family arrived in 1955 to Bound Brook, NJ from Bojano (CB). My mom moved back to Italy as soon as she could and I was raised there, but I have infinite memories or summer and Christmas visits to a world very much like this, suspended between the new country and pre-war Italy. Everybody knew each other, the men worked construction, the women worked in the garment industry. Little English was spoken, the card games started on a Friday evening, the Sunday soccer radio link to Italy, and the food flowed like it was a wedding every day. I am sorry to say the push to integrate almost completely erased the Italian language from the second and third generations, but a few things are constant: the pride in who we are, the culture we share and bring forward into the future, and the fact we stand on the shoulder of these true giants who built this country with their own bare hands along with the rest of the people who came here on foot and by boat and succeeded against all odds.

  3. Wonderful story. Great photographs. It's like opening the door to a close, but faraway part of Brooklyn and New York City history before the gentrifying masses took over. This native New Yorker thanks you for the journey down memory lane.

  4. Beautiful work.

  5. I was born in this neighborhood and attended kindergarten at Our Lady of Mount Carmel. After kindergarten my parents moved out further on the Island but my Papa and his brothers, who owned a bakery on North 6th Street and Havemeyer, The DeLuca Brothers, remained. My Papa remained at his home on N. 6th Street until his death. I remember visiting him, going to the bakery shop and coming in to see the Giglio, it was always exciting to come into 'the city' and seeing the Giglio danced down the street was always a special treat. Thanks for the article and the photos.

  6. @Thatchern My mother would ONLY buy St. Joseph's pastries from DeLucas!

  7. @Thatchern My mother grew up in that neighborhood and up until they saw that business we went there every week from Long Island

  8. Beautiful images and words. It's hard to witness the loss of this community as the old-timers pass on and youngsters are forced out by real estate prices and richer newcomers. Thanks for sharing this slice of changing life.

  9. Back in the late 1950's and the 1960's when I was a young boy in East Utica, NY which then was almost exclusively populated with first and second generation southern Italians, my bachelor great uncle Aristide (nicknamed "Jake") who lived with my widowed grandmother and my four maiden aunts in a two family house (we lived in the second floor flat) and three or four of his paesans would gather on Saturday afternoons in the summer in our backyard playing briscola until a gallon of homemade red wine was emptied. Usually the group would pick one of the players to "go dry" meaning the winner of each game would not fill his glass. How mad that player would get but what fun the gang would have. Simpler times, simpler life.

  10. It is amazing how many Italian restaurants/food stores are still there despite the area being gentrified. Bamontes, Frost, Fortunato Bros. are just a few of them. Unfortunately a few closed too like Crisi's, Conos and others. Carmines restaurant probably gives you the best bang for the buck, great food at reasonable prices. If I am not mistaken in the first picture to the left is Emilio attending the San Cono Association get together. His son name Cono was a victim at the WTC in 911. Emilio started a classic pizza restaurant in nearby Greenpoint named LA that is still going despite Emilio's retirement. It is a gold mine re good Italian food at reasonable prices. His legacy re this restaurant is priceless.

  11. One of the neighborhoods I represented when they were old=time ethic enclaves---what wonderful character they had! The voters were as loyal as any legislator could wish for.

  12. Thank you for this article in pictures. As a displaced New Yorker, they bring back fond memories.

  13. I was born on North 7th street 72 years ago.I remember it like it was yesterday.

  14. I moved out of this neighborhood to western Massachusetts in 2006 and haven't had a decent slice of pizza since!

  15. I was born on Metropolitan Avenue, with grandparents on Devoe and Conselyea streets. Thank you for this.

  16. Can't help but notice that these beautiful photos - the faces, places and rituals - look very similar to present day scenes from the Latino immigrant communities in NYC and throughout America.

  17. My Sicilian family got here in 1902 and eventually owned a 4-floor walk-up at 278 Humbolt Street, where the entire family lived in 8 apartments until the late-1980s. Our matriarch -- my grandmother -- who was a seamstress with a third grade education, managed to send her sons to Yale, Harvard and the Naval Academy. Can one begin to imagine the endless toil, devotion and sacrifice required of her to foster that success? Is such a thing even possible in a single generation today? Williamsburg was a crucible of assimilation and striving.

  18. This is a beautiful piece, both text and photos. In south philly, where newcomers are also driving up real estate prices and (with the help of death) are pushing out the old-timers and their culture, the term “leftovers” is used, by the newcomers, as an epithet—as in, “We don’t care what you think, you’re a leftover!”

  19. My family name is pasqua. My grandfather brought me to teggiano over 50 years ago. It was the feast of St. Cono (my uncles & many cousins name) & the whole town packed food and drove to the top of a mountain to an old monastery to celebrate. 100 picnics. I've been meaning to get to the neighborhood (originally from the Bronx & now live in Westchester) to go to the restaurants and hopefully the feast this summer. I'm sure there will be some who know the name Pasqua.

  20. the photo of the wine and salami.. both homemade is classic! heaven bless uncle johnnie and aunt minnie

  21. I once tipped up to Bamontes with a group of people on a Friday night. We hadn't booked and the place was rammed. So we're in the bar in the front and struggling to get a server's attention...after a while we were unceremoniously told they were full and to come back another time...just then there was a strangely hushed commotion in the restaurant...we couldn't quite see what was going on. Within minutes a bunch of FDNY guys burst through in full gear and forced their way through the busy bar into the restaurant...shortly after they stretcher out an elderly Italian guy (who looked a bit like the guy in the barbers to the left!) He was on oxygen, white as a sheet and clearly in a bad way....we were alarmed to say the least. Just then the same waitress from earlier came back and said "Good news! a table just came free...follow me"...No joke, the old guy's family were still gathering their things as we sheepishly sat down at their table - feeling really bad, but also just really hungry. There was lots on the menu, but my order was simple..."I'll have anything EXCEPT what that guy had!" True Story.