It's a tough time to own a restaurant, especially in Little Italy. Many long-lived establishments are at risk of closing due to increased rent and changing neighborhood interests. Real estate that was once relativelty afforable is selling for millions of dollars, at the expense of historic businesses. Robert Ianniello Jr, of the famed Umbertos Clam House had his rent doubled to $34,000 a month after his building was purchased for $17.5 million, an increase that many restaurants can't afford to pay.
There's also the problem of encroachment from the adjacent Nolita neighborhood. According to the New York Post, some of the boutiques in the area petitioned the city in 2011 to "remove three blocks from the famous Feast of San Gennaro to keep revelers' 'greasy hands' from besmirching their $300 frocks." Luckily, the historic neighborhood festival attracted over 100 people who protested at the community board meeting.
Italian Americans across the nation continue to regard Little Italy as culturally vital, but it remains to be seen whether this kind of interest can keep the neighborhood intact, especially in these tough economic times.