Little Italy enjoys rebirth
September 23, 2004
Dick Case, Post-Standard Columnist
last year, north of downtown, we widened sidewalks 9 feet in the 400-600
blocks of North Salina Street, our oldest intact 19th-century business
We raised banners on new Victorian street lamps, spruced up
parks and made a new one; repaved streets and encouraged the improvement of
storefronts and the creation of new living spaces.
Soon, we had a district with a new name: Little Italy.
Many of the improvements created with state and federal
money were cosmetic. This city gateway sure looked a lot better, at least at
But did the Little Italy project reach further than the
It sure did, according to neighbors I talked to this week.
We have a modest boom going north of Butternut Street.
"I'm overwhelmed," says Joe Daloia, of the Northside
Neighborhood Group. "It's the best thing that's ever happened here."
Bob Molta's channeling his enthusiasm into bricks and beams;
he owns 15 North Side properties. He says he began serious redevelopment of
high-end apartments along North Salina five years ago; friends told him he
"I like a challenge," Bob's saying with a big grin. He's now
successfully renting snazzy places to live above storefronts for rents
ranging from $950 to $1,100 a month.
"The big thing the North Side project did was to show people
we're using our money to invest in the neighborhood," Bob explains.
"Investment is the key," according to another Little Italy
entrepreneur, George D. Angeloro, the fourth generation of his family to do
business north of downtown. "The city's invested, now it's the new business
that will make it work."
The latest new business for the Angeloros is Francesca's
Cucina, run by his son, George A., carrying the flag for the family's fifth
North Side generation. The Italian kitchen named for Francesca Angeloro,
George D.'s mother, opens in the 500 block of North Salina in October.
Syracuse's North Side begins as we walk North Salina under
I-690. Small parks flank the street. To the east is the parking lot that
used to be "City Hay Market," our early regional market.
This is the area of the original "Little Italy," which began
at the Erie Canal (now the boulevard) and ran north to Butternut Street.
The old Learbury "suit factory" is now Learbury Centre.
There's a new Italian diner across the way. At the corner, notice that Asti
Cafe is expanding.
the street, Schlosser Park and the Gen. Sniper statue had a big-time
makeover last year.
There are vacant storefronts, but we're told they don't stay
empty as long as they used to. Joe Daloia, of the neighborhood group, senses
a new interest. He says he's amazed at how the new street lamps brighten the
district at night. There's also a beat cop on the job.
Across Butternut, I pass the CYO, a North Side landmark,
along with the 13-foot-wide Michael's noodle factory, long gone and a
neighborhood curiosity with what has to be the city's oldest dead plants in
I walk into No.541 and find the two George Angeloros, father
and son, and their helpers getting ready to open the family's first
restaurant in years, Francesca's Cucina. We recall Angeloro's Grill at North
State Street and East Belden Avenue, opened by Angelo Angeloro after he came
from Italy in the 1890s.
"We're still here," George senior greets me. His building
started life in the 1850s as a wagon shop. George, who's retired from the
state Department of Transportation, used it as an antiques shop for a few
We're just down the block from another Angeloro standard,
Zischang's sporting goods shop, a business his father, the late "Julie"
Angeloro, had 55 years.
George explain she's landlord and construction boss for the
new restaurant; the business belongs to his son, George, his first solo.
When Francesca's opens next month, George senior says his next project is a
redo of the State Street side of the Zischang block.
Young George's kitchen will be family, also. He's drawing
heavily on recipes passed on to him by his grandmother, Francesca Angeloro,
including a killer Italian take on a pulled pork sandwich that sold out at
last weekend's Italian Fest.
His dad says he bought this building as an investment 25
years ago. Like some of its neighbors, it sat empty "waiting for an area
comeback, which definitely didn't happen. When Little Italy came along, it
made it possible to go ahead with our plans."
The Angeloros aren't the only neighbors catching the spirit.
George and George guide me north on Salina, where we admire the new Biscotti
Cafe and its neighbor, White Dove Tea Room, a newcomer that's now a year
across Salina, Peter Ancona's Cafe Mezzanote club. Next door, a cousin is
getting ready to install Frankie's Bistro where a Chinese restaurant used to
Bob Molta drives up in his pickup. He rehabilitated the old
corner block where Mezzanote is. Bob tours us around the neat apartments
he's created above storefronts in the 600 block of Salina. Rents are at the
high end for Syracuse, and the North Side, but the landlord's not shy of
tenants. Bob's riding the new wave of interest in downtown living.
"I love it," comments Jamie Bean, one of the tenants who
says she grew up in the 'burbs.
The first phase of the Little Italy project covered North
Salina's 400, 500 and 600 blocks, to the old Salina village line at Division
Street. The city plans to expand street improvements to the 300 and 700
blocks in the spring.
© 2004 The Post-Standard.