Many who have been to Italy nostalgically miss a good cup of espresso con schiuma, the rich flavor of San Marzano tomato sauce on freshly-made pasta cooked just al dente, and the jovial smiles from strangers, or expressive gesticulating as directions are explained to the profane. In short, Italy is a land that, for many, holds a particular fascination with a siren echo in your heart always to return.
During shorter, darker autumn days, nostalgia seems to creep back into our lives. While a quick trip to Italy may not be possible or affordable, a trek into Manhattan just might be. And with that trek, indulge in an Italian lunch while touring and engaging in the hustle and bustle of Gotham City.
While the Little Italy quartiere keeps getting smaller and smaller, there are still signs of a vibrance that reclaims what little of nostalgia we can find. Occasionally, a dialetto meridionale can be heard among the many languages that waft on the downtown air.
As is customary, during walks through urban areas, I always like to take a moment of rest and reflection and find a church to enter, to discover or to revisit in a momentary silence amid outside confusion. Right on Mulberry Street in Manhattan’s Little Italy, you will find a treasure unlike any that the City would hold. Sitting boldly in the apse of the Church of the Most Precious Blood sits a life-size, bronze replica of Michelangelo’s Moses. While the original is still found in Rome in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains), this replica sits in a veritably empty church with just a few visitors at any given moment unless Mass is being said. People who are art aficionados or merely italophiles can be as close to this statuesque treasure as physically conceivable, take photos and tangibly experience the power of Michelangelo’s talented hand in Moses’ creation.
For the past two Decembers, when I have managed to eek out time to visit Little Italy, I have found the strength of Moses waiting for me to return to that quiet sanctuary. I revel in his form, the life of his creator and the legacy he left behind. As the holidays approach, I know that I will once again be in Little Italy in December this year. As I stop in to either La Mela or IL Cortile for un pranzo as close to Italy as I will be able to get during this year, I will decidedly amble south on Mulberry Street and stop in to the church to marvel at the strength of such a figure and the spirit that created him. As I breathtakingly enter the quiet, desolate sanctuary, something, someone extraordinary waits for me there. Again, I hope to catch a glimpse of history, of genius, of faith and of passion that rests waiting for me, for any and all to experience.