Saturday, January 25, 2014

A look at New Haven's Wooster Square

Many cities across America have their own "Little Italy" districts. These neighborhoods have experienced profound demographic changes as Italian-Americans migrated from the central city to the suburbs. While some are now mere memories in history, others remain alive as tourist districts, featuring Italian restaurants, bakeries and cafes. In New Haven that neighborhood is Wooster Square.
Wooster Street Arch

Italians first began moving to the area in the late 1800's, many hailing from Italy's Amalfi coast. The neighborhood was almost sacrificed to misguided urban renewal efforts in the 1950's and 60's by planners who saw more value in a highway versus a cohesive, walkable neighborhood. However city preservationists stepped in, and Wooster Square was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.

Demographics have changed somewhat since then. Yet the Italian flavor remains, and the neighborhood is one of the more stable residential areas in a somewhat downtrodden city.

Wooster Square is a popular destination for Italian food. On a chilly winter morning's visit, there was a substantial crown waiting to enter the storefront of Frank Pepe's Pizzeria. I doubt you'll find that kind of devotion or enthusiasm to grab a slice at your run of the mill pizza national chains like Papa Johns and Pizza Hut. That's what makes places like Wooster Square so special, something that malls and corporate franchises just can't duplicate. 

Frank Pepe's Pizzeria

 Statue of Christopher Columbus in Wooster Square Park

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