Whether it’s Fellini films or pizza, Italian culture has always had a certain pull for us in the States. When we think of Italy, we think of aesthetic elegance, romance, and a laid-back, joyful way of life. Or maybe that’s just what the Italophiles like me, who’ve been taken in by the genius melodrama of a Verdi opera, or the sublime flavor balance of good pistachio gelato, think. We are the type of people who wonder if you can spend a whole weekend exploring Italian-influenced art, architecture, music, and food — practically pretending to be on vacation in Italy — in an American city. After all, we crave the enchantment of Italian culture, and we’d like to find it closer to home, in places we can explore without dealing with customs and international flights.
Inspired by the recent arrival of the FIAT 500 on American shores, Flavorwire sent me to Miami, New Orleans, and San Francisco to find out if it was possible to recreate Italian grandeur right here stateside. In these cities where you might not expect to pull off a weekend jaunt all’Italiana, I discovered a surprising number of spots that retained their local flavor while staying true to the Italian spirit. Click through to explore the second of my three action-packed weekend itineraries that will show you where to find the magic of Italy without having to cross the Atlantic.
Here’s one thing that you won’t learn on your typical French Quarter tour in New Orleans: the area used to be nicknamed “Little Palermo” because of most of its inhabitants in the early 20th century were Sicilian immigrants. The city most known for its Creole culture also has an under-the-radar Italian heritage. In seeking out the city’s secret Italy, I traced a course of two types of places: those that have preserved the Italian immigrant culture of the past, and recent projects that mix contemporary Italian culture with New Orleans style.
Evening: Uptown Escape
The neon drinks and fried food of the French Quarter may be calling — ignore them and head to the up-and-coming Freret Street area, in Uptown New Orleans. There you can whet your appetite with one of the Italian-inflected New Orleans classic cocktails at Ancora, like the house sazerac — a potent combination of rye whiskey, sambuca, grapefruit liqueur, and bitters. Then make a meal of skillfully fired Neapolitan-style pizzas and be sure to include the diavola, which gets its kick from spicy salami and chili pepper. If you’re game for further cocktail experimentation, walk down the street for drinks at Cure, a cocktail bar whose complex creations are based on old-time home remedies.
Ancora: 4508 Freret Street 504-324-1636. Cure: 4905 Freret Street; (504) 302-2357.