Foods of New York Gift Certificates

past bites

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Reviving Old New York

So check this out. Thanks to the Internet, we can all indulge our nerdy historian sides from time to time.

At the end of April, the New York City Department of Records released an online archival gallery of over 870,000 photographs, some dating back as far as the 1880s. In the little wave of press that followed, we got to see some of the more outstanding photos of the collection, many of them from the earliest decades of the 20th Century: painters hanging on the wires of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1916, Lucky Luciano's mugshot from 1936, and countless snapshots of street life in New York from eras long gone.

Recently, though, I've spent a little time skimming through the archives to see what other interesting photos I can find (and I do mean a little time; my nerdiness usually tends to extend in directions like stumbling through new coding languages or discussing Buffy the Vampire Slayer). With the search function, I found some very cool pictures of my neighborhood, Astoria, in the 1930s, including one of the Astoria Pool, full of swimmers in funny bathing suits, next to the Hellgate Bridge in its full glory.

The Faces of a Building
But my favorite discovery was regarding an old restaurant called Moneta's on Mulberry Street. You may know Mulberry Street as the historic heart of Little Italy, although today it is mostly a tourist trap nearly engulfed by modern Chinatown (real Italian food still resides further west, though, in Greenwich Village... take the tour if you don't believe me).

Moneta's Restaurant circa 1935-1941

In the 1940s, Moneta's Restaurant at 32 Mulberry Street was an Italian restaurant. I found a review from back in the day that said, "Although if this restaurant isn't in a slum neighborhood, it is hanging right on the edge, the food, in the Italian style, is so perfect that it is still able to charge $2.00 for a table d'hote dinner" (that's a prix fixe dinner, for those of us who live in the 21st Century). Shoddy neighborhood or not, Moneta's was, apparently, a classy joint. To my mind, the well-dressed men in hats prove this further.

The karaoke lounge that most recently took over the address, called Yello, closed down a few years ago. When they took down their awning, it seems they exposed the ghost of Moneta's in the building's facade: the outline of the original sign is still visible, almost 80 years later! (Click on the picture to view it larger.)

32 Mulberry Street, today

It's the same sign we can see in the photo from the late 1930s! How cool is it that we can take a little trip into the past thanks to NYC's municipal archives and a couple quick Google searches? I really encourage you to take a look through the archives yourself. Pop a keyword into the search box and get digging!

What Food Tours Are About
My favorite aspect of food tourism is the eating, of course, but a close second is experiencing the cultural history. By tasting your way through a neighborhood, you experience it viscerally in ways you would miss if you simply walked the streets. Digesting tiny morsels of history alongside delicious morsels of food is the only way to really experience a city.

Have you perused the archives and found anything interesting? If you've taken a tour with us, what was the favorite historical or cultural tidbit you learned? Let me know!

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?