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Forlini's: Little Italy's Last Stand Below Canal

Guest blogger month at Curbed continues this week. Currently occupying the dance floor: Brooks of Sheffield aka Lost City. He's going to be filing on Carroll Gardens and vicinity this week, and, as below, will dabble in Manhattan. We do hope you enjoy his old school musings.


You'll find plenty of Chinese establishments encroaching upon what used to be Little Italy's territory above Canal Street, but as far as I know, there's only one outlet of Italian culture that's gone the other way, and kept a foothold below that thoroughfare: Forlini's.

A family-owned Italian eatery on Baxter Street, Forlini's has managed to hang on for half a century or more in hostile territory mainly because of its proximity to the courthouses of lower Manhattan. Judges, lawyers and politicians make up much of its clientèle, and various booths bear plaques of legal types who have shown their loyalty to the joint over 25 or 30 years, including one for the old New York Post criminal courts reporter Mike Pearl and one for judge Edwin Torres, who wrote "Carlito's Way." I didn't see Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau while I ate lunch there, but I did notice that certain customers where instantly acknowledged by the staff and quickly ushered into a rear dining room.

The interior isn't much to look at. In fact, you probably want to avert your eyes, for Forlini's goes in for that faux-classy decor that a lot of old-school Italian places favor. The color scheme seems to be salmon and tan. And there are lots of atrocious oil paintings on the wall; depictions of the Old Country and lovable old, bearded scamps getting drunk and playing the fiddle. And I can't say much for the meal, a pasta dish that, frankly, I could have done as well in my own kitchen. But, of course, I don't have enough free time to prove it to you. I doubt Morgenthau does either. —Lost City