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Italian culture stayin' alive in Bensonhurst

Written by Gian LaHara on . Posted in News

For many decades the Bensonhurst neighborhood in Brooklyn was predominantly Italian, but that is now changing -- some parts of Bensonhurst now look like an extension of Chinatown.
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While Bensonhurst now offers Chinese food, many still prefer the old Italian ways of this famous neighborhood

18th Avenue is the prime example of this change. Every Italian-American from Bensonhurst has spent much of their lives on this street.

But over the past 10 years, local Italian eateries, bakeries and other businesses have either moved from this section of Brooklyn or have closed down.

In their place have risen Chinese-owned and operated nail salons, 99 cents stores, restaurants and bakeries.

Artem Dikiy, a frequent rider of the B8 bus that goes along 18th Avenue, described taking the bus as “a new cultural experience.”

He said: “Taking the B8 is like going through Chinatown. All the store signs are written in Chinese characters with one or two words written in English.”

Though it might appear that the Italian-American culture is disappearing from the neighborhood, that is not the case.

There are still some local businesses left that are staples in Bensonhurst.

No matter what the surrounding neighborhood has become, a legion of people still flock to Villabate bakery, especially on holidays. Villabate on 70th St. and 18th Ave. is the premiere spot for some of the finest Italian pastries on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Gino’s Focacceria on 72nd St. and Frank and Sal’s on 81st St. are two of the few remaining places to get good tasting Italian food on the avenue. Whether it be the excellent cold cuts Frank and Sal’s has or a tasty hot hero from Gino’s, one cannot go wrong.

On top of this, at the end of every summer, 18th Avenue hosts a very Italian tradition called the Santa Rosalia Feast. Very similar to the world famous San Gennaro Feast that takes place in Little Italy in Manhattan, the Santa Rosalia Feast is a street fair with tons of little stands that make food and have games.

So even though the neighborhood has changed greatly, there are still hints of the neighborhood past. Bensonhurst has essentially become like lower Manhattan -- Italian and Chinese cultures living side by side.

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