Tour Poughkeepsie’s Little Italy
Poughkeepsie’s Italian section is home to a number of authentic restaurants and bakeries
Photographs by Michael Polito
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Between 1896 and 1921, nearly four million Italians emigrated to America seeking a fresh start for themselves and their families. Many settled here in the Valley, especially near the Poughkeepsie waterfront in what’s currently referred to as the Mount Carmel district, or Little Italy.
The neighborhood — which was predominantly Irish at the time — saw an influx of Italians arriving in 1910; that same year, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel church was built as an Italian house of worship, and a community grew around it.
Ten years later, Italians made up the majority of residents, and many of their businesses thrived, including barbershops, a bank, and groceries selling Italian imports.
Along with the rest of the nation, the area fell on hard times during the Great Depression, but the Mt. Carmel community sprang back and began to grow and diversify in the 1940s.
Presently, the area — which is located around Verrazano Boulevard, Mill Street, and Mt. Carmel Place — is culturally mixed, but much of the Italian heritage remains. The church is still there (although it was moved from its original location on Mt. Carmel Place to Mill Street in the 1960s); each June, it hosts the hugely popular St. Anthony’s Street Festival, a celebratory event with food and live entertainment. The Italian Center, which opened on Mill Street in 1928, helps maintain community spirit by offering a Friday night buffet dinner for a small fee.
From the family-run Caffè Aurora, which has doled out authentic Italian treats for more than half a century, to the three-year-old Cafe Bocca — a bit of the Old World can still be seen, heard, and tasted in Poughkeepsie’s Little Italy.
(Join the Mt. Carmel eateries for “A Taste of Little Italy” on October 10. The fête evokes the Italian spirit with live music, dancing, a meatball competition, and, of course, cannoli-eating contests. Buon appetito!)
» Meet the Little Italy eateries: Cafe Bocca