A stroll through Bensonhurst, Brooklyn’s Little Italy (and Chinatown)

(Updated – Nov 15, 2016)bensonhurst-neighborhood-walk-explore-brooklyn

Bensonhurst is one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Its rich history dates back to 1835, when it was developed from farmland, so our walking tour through the neighborhood includes several historical and cultural landmarks.

The starting point: Begin at the Bay Parkway D train station. Head in the direction of 21st Avenue along 86th Street. (Or, for a shorter walk, get off at the 20th Avenue station.)

You’ll be walking under the elevated subway tracks, and if they look familiar, it’s because this is where the famous chase scene from The French Connection was filmed. Take a right onto 18th Avenue (don’t worry…we’ll see Gene Hackman again later.)

 

New-Utrecht-Reformed-Church-brooklyn-nycMain church chapel | New Utrecht Reformed Church via Yelp

 

Walking along 18th Avenue (also known as Cristoforo Colombo Boulevard), look to your right at 84th Street for the New Utrecht Reformed Church, established in 1677 in the town of New Utrecht, long before this area was considered a part of Brooklyn. The Protestant church has a cemetery built in 1683, and a “liberty pole” erected at the end of the Revolutionary War to celebrate the British evacuation.

Coming up next on the same side of the avenue, between 81st and 83rd Streets, are Garibaldi Playground and Milestone Park. The playground was named in honor of revered Italian patriot Giuseppe Garibaldi, whose granite monument to him was dedicated in 1990. Just a few steps away you can see a reproduction of the oldest milestone in New York City. (The original, erected in 1741, is now housed at the Brooklyn Historical Society.)

 

Garibaldi Playground-brooklyn-nycGaribaldi Playground | via Foursquare

 

Continuing on, you’ll come to Little Italy and Chinatown. (As in Manhattan, Bensonhurst’s Little Italy is gradually losing ground to Chinese businesses.) Little Italy is mainly concentrated between 60th and 75th Streets, and you would be forgiven for thinking that you’ve stepped back into the 1950s.

At 67th Street, take a look at the curious sea life adorning the edifice of the now-defunct Childs Restaurant, which is being converted into a 5,099 seat amphitheater.

 

Il-Colosseo-pizza-brooklyn.nycMushroom & Ham Pizza | Il Colosseo Via Yelp

 

By now, you should have worked up an appetite, and your timing couldn’t be better. Il Colosseo, between 77th and 78th Streets, is a good spot for a traditional Italian meal. Or if you’re in the mood for sweets, check out Villabate Alba between 70th and 71st for the best in Italian pastries.

There’s lots of great Chinese food along this block as well. Hand Pull Noodle and Dumpling House serves delicious, reasonably-priced food between 72nd and 73rd. As it’s right in the name, we recommend trying the hand-pulled noodles. Or try out the Fay Wong Bakery Cafe a little further down between 62nd and 63rd, for Hong Kong-style milk tea, breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

 

Pulled-noodles with-beef-tendon-Hand-Pull-Noodle-and-Dumpling-HousePulled noodles with beef tendon | Doris C. via Yelp

Definitely make some time for a wander through S.A.S. Italian Records at 71st Street. Opened in 1967 by Ciro and Rita Conte, this is italophile heaven. Browse an extensive selection of Italian and Italian-American music and movies, Italian soccer paraphernalia and apparel. Be prepared to take home a little souvenir.

Once you reach 62nd Street, take a left and walk until you’ve reached the D train station. This is the end of our walk, and also where the chase scene from The French Connection reaches it climax. There’s no music in the scene, but the director has said that he played Santana’s “Black Magic Woman” while editing, so maybe pop that on your headphones as you walk up the stairs where Gene Hackman takes down the hitman. Sorry for the spoiler.

 

 

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