How Locals Spend a Sunday

Where to Find the New Little Italy in NYC

by Francine Stephens
Buvette There's no better way to spend an afternoon. Photo courtesy of Buvette.

Remember Little Italy in New York City? No? Good: It's been reduced to a few tourist traps around Mulberry Street. Brooklyn restaurateur Francine Stephens (Franny's, Brklyn Larder, and the upcoming Rose's Bar and Grill) knows where to find the spirit of New Little Italy — family, friends, culture, and, of course, great meals.

NEW YORK CITY – Our leisurely Italian day in New York off starts light. It's perfect weather and our kids (Prue, 8, and Marco, 7) are off from school. I need my cappuccino, my chef husband Andrew needs his espresso, and our kids need a good meal (they always wake up hungry). Café Regular in Park Slope fits the bill.

With the kids satiated, we debate our cultural fix: The Intrepid Museum or Central Library in Grand Army Plaza. Their children's library is unrivaled and tends to win.

Francine Stephens family

A happy family: Andrew with the kids, Marco and Prue. Photos by Francine Stephens.

After an educational few hours, we head to Buvette in the West Village for a mid-afternoon meal. This is the ideal time to dine, in between lunch and dinner crowds. The menu may be completely French, but its pure and honest simplicity speaks Italian to me. (Chef Jody Williams' heart is rooted in Italy, too.) We sit at the back table and order a cheese plate along with anchovies and butter on bread. (Come on, completely Italian!) Andrew drinks prosecco; I sneak a French rosé.

We wander the streets for a while, and when dinner time rolls around, we make our way to i Sodi, our favorite Italian restaurant in the city (other than our own Franny's, of course). Rita Sodi has been cooking honest and consistent Tuscan food for as long as I've had children. The restaurant feels homey and special, and is one of our family's favorite spots.

We start with raw artichoke salad and plates of antipasti. The spread is complemented by fried artichokes, courtesy of Rita, and green peas cooked so long they remind us of growing up. To balance out the greenery, we indulge in one of Rita's steaks.

If I'm super lucky, my kids will be tired, Andrew will offer to go home with them, and I'll meet my girlfriends at the bar at Franny's and sip a digestivo. Sitting at that bar, surrounded by friends: There's no more luxurious way to end a perfect Italian day in NYC.


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