It was the year 1892 when Pina Alleva opened up a tiny cheese market in the heart of Little Italy. She was an immigrant from Benevento and she became very popular in the community for her fresh made ricotta and mozzarella cheeses. We can only imagine many Nonnas (grandmothers) would have shopped here for their own kitchen. The shop moved next door (to its current location) in 1920 and Pina's son took over. It reached Robert, the fourth generation who expanded the shop a little and introduced prepared foods.
In 2014, Bob Alleva sold the business to local legend and distant cousin John "Cha Cha" Ciarcia and his wife Karen King, a well-known singer. After Cha Cha sadly passed away in 2015, a third silent partner stepped up to help out the business. That partner was Tony Danza, the well-known actor from Who's the Boss and Taxi. Cha Cha was Tony boxing manager and best friends through their careers together in film and television. You can often find both Tony and Karen checking up on the shop and keeping quality control - someone has to taste all that cheese!
Alleva is the oldest dairy store in America and they have been making fresh mozzarella and ricotta since the beginning. The mozzarella is made fresh every single day - in fact, the same person has been making it for close to 30 years. Their cheese selection also includes all sorts of imported provolones and parmigiana. Don't miss their meat selection - on our Tenements Tour we get a tasting of both the fresh mozzarella and their imported Prosciutto di Parma. The secret is to wrap the unsalted cheese with the fatty, succulent ham.
Cheese and meat are just a part of what Alleva sells. They also have amazing sandwiches and prepared food (the arancini are incredible!) and all sorts of traditional Italian ingredients ranging from pastas to balsamics to cookies. In fact, this is one of the classic places the Italians come to shop when they return to the neighborhood during the San Genaro Festival or just when they want a taste of the old country.
Little Italy is not nearly as authentic as it once was with touristy restaurants and souvenir shops lining Mulberry Street. But a few places like Alleva hint back to the vibrancy and culture that was once prevalent in this area. We're very happy Karen and Tony are keeping it alive. Plus, we can't resist the appetizing smells that hypnotize us every time we walk in.
188 Grand Street
New York, New York 10013