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Bronx Week: Bronx's Little Italy Welcomes New Cultures

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As our Bronx Week series comes to an end, borough reporter Erin Clarke takes a look at the Bronx's Little Italy, which is becoming less Italian.

Folks from the Bronx say it's the real Little Italy. The sweet smell of pastries, pasta, bread and meat fill the air of the Belmont section of the Bronx.

"I really don't even go downtown to Little Italy. I like it up here," says area resident Dolores Glover.

Streets lined with authentic restaurants, shops that even provide products to Lower Manhattan's Little Italy and, of course, for years, mostly Italians lived there.

"It was full of Italians and just like one culture here," one area resident says.

Over time, though, that's changed.

"In the 70s, it was mostly Italian. Then in the 80s, probably, it became more Spanish. In the 90s, Albanias came in," says Natalia Corridori, general manager of Artuso.

Families like the Kajtizis came. They've been here since the 70s. They were some of the first Albanians to settle in Belmont and introduce traditional eats like Burek to the area.

Now they run the popular Michaelangelos on Arthur Ave.

"Arthur Avenue was like Manhattan for us. It was very inexpensive...They figured let's all move to one area," says Michaelangelos owner and manager Biba Kajtizi.

Mexicans also started moving into the community several years ago.

"Before, a lot of Italian restaurants—everything all Italian. Not too many Spanish people, but now a lot Mexicans are here. Even the stores, inside, workers—all Mexicans inside," says George Castelan.

With all these different cultures here in the neighborhood, now the question is—is this still Little Italy?

"It should stay Little Italy because you know, if they—they put their feet first into this, into the bucket. I don't think it's going to change," says former resident Ulises Arroyo.

"A lot of the stores here have been here a hundred years," says Alexandra Maruri. "You can't change that. You can't change the history."

Instead, business owners would rather say it's the same welcoming neighborhood.

"It's a melting pot for any immigrants coming into the country," Corridori says.

It's the true and most authentic Little Italy—with a twist.

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