Lifetime Mulberry Street resident Lucy Torredelfino has seen a lot of change. A daughter of immigrant parents from Naples, we caught up with Lucy at her apartment to ask her how the neighborhood’s changed, the candy store she used to own, and what she thinks of Aussies.
Tell us about growing up in Little Italy.
The neighborhood changed; it was nice. I went to St. Patrick’s school, on Prince. The nuns used to live there. But no more, the school is closed. My mother and father got married here when they got off the boat downtown—my mother says when she came here there were Indians.
What was it like back then?
It was all Italian. They had pushcarts on Mott Street; they’d sell food. They’d sell shoes on the pushcarts, too. Five, ten dollars for a pair of shoes, no more than that. Not like today, people come with a lot of money. We ate anything back then. Today, you gotta have special food.
And when was this exactly? How old are you?
I was born in this apartment, the midwife came. December 21st—I’m 93, so I was born 19 twenty something.
1923. So tell us about your family.
My father delivered the paper, brought it to the stores. My mother didn’t work. I got married in 1948. My husband Michael was a truck driver for United Fruit.
How was the wedding?
I got married when I was 25 years old. The snow was so high that I told the fellas down in the cafe to come here with the car, and put the car in front of the door so I wouldn’t dirty my gown. When I got married, we bought a television; that’s when they were first coming out, black and white.
Who were the fellas?
The big shots.
What were their names?
No, I don’t give names. They’re all dead anyway. John Gotti used to be here. He’s dead.
Any John Gotti stories?
I had a candy store downstairs called Lucy’s Candy Store. In the back, it was called The Notty Pine. We had a bar, a pool table, slot machines. John Gotti used to pass with his friends—he was some dresser. At my stand at the feast [of San Gennaro, patron saint of Naples], he used to tell his boys, “When you pass Lucy, you pay. You don’t get it for nothing.”
Tell us about the feast.
San Gennaro, they used to have the procession and everything. The feast is different now, it changed. The sandwiches used to be 3 dollars, now they’re 10 dollars.
Do you cook? Did your mom have any secret recipes?
I used to eat in here every night, my mother did all the cooking. No, she didn’t have any secret recipes. Sometimes people ask and want to know about the big shots, but I don’t know. The less you talk, the better it is.
Have you ever left New York City?
The only time I went away was when I got married, I went to Washington. The black people had to go to the back of the bus, they wouldn’t let them sit in the front. That wasn’t nice.
Do you have any regrets?
No, I like it here. Where am I gonna go? The rent is so high. When I got my mother’s apartment I was paying 20 dollars. Then they raised me to 30 something. Now I pay 87.