SEE Mott and Mulberry Streets
These touristy "main streets" are worth mentioning because they serve as good bases for orienting yourself and exploring Chinatown and Little Italy. Mott is lined with Chinese (mostly Cantonese) restaurants, but nearby Pell, Bayard, and Doyers Streets are home to more authentic local grocers, tea salons, and lunch counters serving spicy Szechuan and Hunan food, but also lesser-known Fukien, Suzhou, and Zhuzhou flavors. Mulberry brims with kitsch and mediocre, overpriced restaurants, but its side streets are where you'll find wine bars and one-of-a-kind designer boutiques.
SEE Museum of Chinese in the Americas
70 Mulberry St., 212/619-4785, moca-nyc.org
The experiences of Chinese immigrants are well documented in this fascinating second-floor museum. Photographs, memorabilia, and Asian-American art are all on display. Closed Mon. Adults $3, students and seniors $1; group tours of historic Chinatown $12. Call three weeks in advance to book the tour.
EAT Nha Trang
87 Baxter St., north of Bayard St., 212/233-5948
A neighborhood favorite that dishes out Vietnamese food by the heaping plateful. Toothsome marinated pork chops with vermicelli and garlicky sautéed greens are winners. It's so authentic that there's even a "Don't stand on the toilet" sign in the bathroom.
EAT Peking Duck House
28 Mott St., near Chatham Sq., 212/227-1810
A modern spot where it's all about the crispy fried duck, which, on occasion, is ceremoniously carved tableside. Try it moo-shu style, wrapped in rice pancakes.
EAT Shanghai Cuisine
89 Bayard St., at Mulberry St., 212/732-8988
Don't be tempted to order anything but the crab-pork soup dumplings-the combination of flavors is like none other. (A couple of baskets makes a meal.) Warning: The tiki drinks pack a punch.
EAT Vincent's Restaurant
119 Mott St., at Hester St., 212/226-8133
A popular cafeteria specializing in southern Italian seafood dishes. Warning: It sometimes goes heavy on the spicy pepperoncini in its red sauce stewed with frutti de mare (mussels, calamari, etc.).
DRINK Asia Roma
40 Mulberry St., 212/385-1133
The name, drink list, and lounge decor reflect the unlikely melding of cultures in the surrounding blocks. Think ginseng martinis and good Italian wines.