Volume 76, Number 3 | June 7 - 13, 2006

Villager photos by Robert Kreizel

A band passed the David of Mulberry during the Feast of St. Anthony procession last Sunday.

David of Mulberry is getting a rise in Little Italy

By Lincoln Anderson

An 8-foot-tall, anatomically correct replica of Michelangelo’s statue of David has been causing some raised eyebrows and getting a rise out of neighbors and tourists at the Mulberry St. Mall in Little Italy.

The annual summer mall, which closes Mulberry St. between Broome and Canal Sts. from Friday evening to Sunday evening, started Memorial Day weekend. Last Tuesday, Alex Tisi, owner of Il Piccolo Buffalo tratoria, in what he says was an effort to “bring a little Italy to Little Italy,” added the famous statue in front of his place, just south of Grand St.

But there’s word that some mothers with children don’t feel David — who is naked save for the slingshot slung over his left shoulder — is appropriate for a “family neighborhood.”

Tony Longordo, 67, who sells photos of the Rat Pack and “The Godfather” at his small shack at the corner of Grand and Mulberry Sts., said he’d seen the statue. He knows Tisi from when they grew up together in the neighborhood and still calls him by his childhood nickname, “Allie Boy.”

“What are you gonna do?” Longordo said. “It’s there. The mothers don’t like it for the children.

“I told ’em, ‘Put something on, then,’” Longordo said he told the restaurant. “I said, ‘I’ll give you my underwear, put something on it.’ They said, ‘No, we’ll be all right.’ ”

Maryann Lanciotti, who greeted Longordo as she was rounding the corner last Sunday afternoon, said, no, she hadn’t seen the statue yet, but would go take a look.

Upon returning she said, “It seems a little out of place just by itself. If there were other statues out there it might look O.K. I don’t think it’s offensive — it’s a copy of a work of art.”

Yet, Lanciotti said she could see the other side.

“It’s a family neighborhood,” she said. “Not in the sense that people live here anymore. But every weekend, tons of people are here with families.”

An Il Piccolo Buffalo waiter who noted he’s seen the real David sculpture in Florence, admitted the replica is “a poor reflection” of the original. Yet, he’s proud to have it there.

“Some people see it as semipornographic,” he said. “It’s like little girls giggling. They point to it. The other half appreciate it.”

Just before, a group of young women from Thailand had been posing for a photo in front of the David of Mulberry. Right before the shot, one of them put her hand up to her mouth in a mock display of being scandalized.

But Tisi, 54, said he didn’t mean to cause a controversy.

“The statue is what the statue is,” he said. “You’re telling me you want to get a copy of the statue of the Venus de Milo and put a bra on it? This is New York, not Ohio — it’s New York between the East and West Village. In my wildest dreams I never imagined anyone being offended by the statue.”

When the mall ends for the week, the statue, which is hollow inside, is moved from the street onto the sidewalk by the restaurant’s front door.

Tisi says he personally hasn’t received any firsthand criticism of the statue.

On the contrary, some want to imitate the idea.

“I’ve had inquiries from other restaurant owners who want to know where I got it,” he said. “I bought the statue on the Internet — it had been on a lawn in Florida.”

He said there’s one person in the neighborhood who has a perennial beef with the mall, whom he suspects of fueling the controversy.

“Would they prefer if I flood the streets once a week and get a gondola?” he joked.

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