New York City, The Night Before The Storm

Tropical Storm Irene is hitting New York City Sunday morning, but Saturday night in lower Manhattan, people weren't quite sure what to expect from the storm. NPR's Caitlin Kenney describes what it was like in her neighborhood.

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And back to New York City now, where people in Lower Manhattan were both prepared and puzzled as Irene approached.

NPR's Caitlyn Kenney describes what it was like in her neighborhood last night.

CAITLIN KENNEY: On a typical summer weekend in Little Italy, you can barely squeeze through the crowds to get where you're going. But yesterday, with the city's subway and bus service shut down, the streets were empty. Just a few restaurants had their doors open, hoping to grab customers before closing for the weekend.

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KENNEY: At Giovana's on Mulberry Street Nick Mesce was pretty happy about all the closures. He was having a busy lunch shift.

NICK MESCE: It's pretty good. Pretty good. We've got a full house.

KENNEY: For most of the restaurants, no public transportation meant no way for employees to get to work. But Mesce says he and a couple other Giavana's employees live in the neighborhood, so they were able to open the restaurant for a few hours.

MESCE: Give people want they want before the storm before they can't come out for the next 48 hours, pretty much.

KENNEY: Richard Day took a cab more than 60 blocks from Central Park to eat at Giovana's, but he didn't come for the homemade pasta.

RICHARD DAY: Well, we needed to eat and so many of the restaurants are closed because of the hurricane that we kind of just decided, well, Little Italy I bet they'll be open.

KENNEY: Day is in town from Erie, Colorado. But so far, his trip to New York hasn't turned out quite like he planned.

DAY: We were going to see a play tonight, and that's been cancelled. So we're not sure what we're going to do - maybe buy some frozen pizzas and go home and bake them.

KENNEY: Mulberry Street is also home to a bunch of souvenir shops and small stores that sell purses and women's clothing.

Down the street at the Step Up Boutique, the man who usually stands out in front of the store and yells: Thousands of handbags, scarves, jewelry, wasn't talking. He was too busy boarding up the store's windows.

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KENNEY: Little Italy's most famous bakery, Ferrara's, also boarded up its storefront and covered the little trees out front with plastic. All down the street, the windows of other restaurants were plastered with red and white electrical tape. The restaurants did that hoping that if the windows shattered, the tape would keep most of the glass from blowing out.

But over at Umberto's Clam House, waitress Ariane Cote was relaxed. She said she didn't quite get why everyone was so worried.

ARIANE COTE: We're not sure if it's going to hit that much. I mean we think that maybe it's more bigger than what it's maybe going to be.

KENNEY: It was quiet inside Umberto's just three tables.

Freddy Delgrosso was waiting for his veal marsala to arrive - he said he didn't care how strong the storm was when it actually hit, because it had already wrecked his day.

FREDDY DELGROSSO: My wife and I are adopting a child from the Ukraine and Aerosvit Airlines didn't post their cancellation until five minutes after we drove four and a half hours to get here.

KENNEY: Freddy and his wife were headed home to Pennsylvania after their meal. Like everyone else here down in Little Italy, they're hoping things return to normal by Monday.

Caitlin Kenney, NPR News, New York

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