Italy is the source of some of the finest delights our senses can enjoy: espresso, pizza, pasta, gelato, wine and much more! For this reason, there are many “Little Italys” outside the motherland that bring together what we love about one of the star models of European quality. Who doesn’t love phenomenal coffee, incredible food and wonderful company?! There are many places right here in North America that have done an excellent job of bringing our favorite features of the sought out and adored Italian way into many of our cities. From the nonna-style homemade pizza and tiramisu, to the showcasing of authentic imported products, these mini Italian communities offer an amazing array of Italian culture and cuisine for anyone to enjoy! Each city brings these communities to life in a different style, but, let’s be honest, some do it better than others. Here are the top 10 “Little Italy’s” in North America:
10. Montreal, Quebec
French meets Italian in the wonderful Little Italy of Montreal. Imagine: the highest standards of cheese and breads, European-style architecture and atmosphere, with quality espresso, wine and dining all fused into one great area! Enjoy the best pizza in Montreal at Boulangerie Marguerita and peruse the Church of the Madonna della Difesa – a large gorgeous piece of architecture that was built in 1919 and features the rare fresco of Pius IX and Mussolini next to one another. This wonderful fusion of deep-rooted culture and quality creates an enticing atmosphere that is quiet and calm during the day, and illuminated at night with vibrant streets of bright lights and high-spirits! It’s no wonder that Montreal’s little Italy continues to lure in those looking for a taste of Italia!
9. St. Louis, Missouri
You will quickly find a smile on your face as wafts of authentic Italian cuisine begin to enchant your sense as you walk St. Louis’ most intact ethnic neighborhood, also known as “The Hill” or “Little Italy St. Louis”. Although you should visit any little Italy with an empty stomach, you absolutely must come to The Hill prepared to take in all the delights of Italian cuisine! You’ll forever remember your experience of dining at the famous restaurants of this neighborhood – highly acclaimed by patriotic Italians, locals and celebrities! It’s also a great place for walking tours through the authentic independent shops, eateries, statues and many more great scenes. This is a way of life you will definitely be happy to get into!
8. Toronto, Ontario
Toronto’s little Italy captures all the great things of Italy, and packs it into one long strip full of cafes, clubs, patios and restaurants, lit with boot-shaped lights floating above the sidewalks. During the day you can enjoy a plethora of quality Italian cuisine and beautiful cafes full of delicious food and beverages on this strip on College Street West. The nightlife is even more impressive, bringing in youthful crowds, ridiculous cars, and a permeating sense of a community that fully embraces the enjoyment of good company. Characteristic of Toronto, there is even some diversity sprinkled in among the authentic and modern Italian hotspots, offering subtle compliment to the Italian themes without risking a case of mistaken identity. There is no doubt that this is the Italian hot spot of the city!
7. Providence, Rhode Island
Also known as Federal Hill, the Italian neighborhood of Providence in Rhode Island is full of multi-leveled enjoyment! If the high population of Italian ancestry is not enough to convince you that this is a great place to experience the Italian style, the details of the colorful DePasquale Plaza surely will! At the heart of the neighborhood, this plaza consists of fantastic restaurants, cafes, grocers and parks saturated with Italian flair. Outrageous desserts, famous pies, quality cigars, and intense bocce ball competitions are only a few of the reasons that make this area one of Providence’s top attractions. The beautiful fountains and architecture create an atmosphere of great enjoyment that is heightened with perfect lighting and amazing vibes! Come visit during June’s Federal Hill Stroll!
6. San Francisco, California
Despite being one of the furthest states from the boot shaped country, California still offers a taste of the homeland! The Italian neighborhood in San Francisco is located in the community oriented North Beach, where you can follow the grooves of the area to find great hidden gems. After enjoying the shops and bakeries, indulge further in the Italian lifestyle with a fantastic espresso and patio lunch at a lovely cafe featuring Italian music, newspapers, and staff. Afterwards, experience the unmatched beauty of Italian art before attending Italian language classes in the midst of the preserved Italian heritage at the Museo Italo Americano! For the full experience get in on the special events of the Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco and treat yourself to the summer festival or jazz festival, or hold off until October and celebrate the nation’s oldest Italian-American parade!
5. Boston, Massachusetts
The North end of Boston first became a ‘Little Italy’ in the early 1900’s, when the Italian people began to inhabit the area which was previously populated by Jewish and Irish Immigrants. This makes Boston’s Little Italy a historical ground that is sometimes claimed to be the center, not only of the Italian style, but also of the American Revolution. Over time the area has established deeper and deeper Italian roots, solidifying the culture and cuisine with over 80 restaurants, pubs, bakeries, and cafes – alongside amazing architecture, Italian art, and entertaining feasts and festivals. The clean authentic cobblestone streets, the floating melodies of the Italian language, and the overall rustic charm will have you singing “grazi”, wine in hand, before you know it!
4. Manhattan, New York
Escape the hustle and bustle of classic New York City, and enter into old school Italian vibes and heritage on Mulberry Street. Walk the streets and gaze upon St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral a midst authentic Italian cafes, restaurants and markets. Despite its shrinking size there are still many gems to be found within these four unique city blocks. If you are visiting early in September you can take part in the excitement that comes with The Feast of San Gennaro, an annual street celebration lasting 11 days which pays tribute to the patron saint of Naples and includes a serious eating contest and a wonderful vibrant parade!
3. Chicago, Illinois
When you enter into Little Italy, Chicago, you’ll find yourself immersed in a beautiful space of colorful buildings, elegant statues, and elaborate fountains. The neighborhood is also home to a diverse set of ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, which adds a distinct charm to the community. Still, the primacy of Italian-American heritage makes itself well-known, especially in the must see National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame and the historical Roman Catholic churches; Notre Dame de Chicago and Our Lady of Pompeii. Be sure to enjoy the famous Mario’s Italian Lemonade after taking in the delectable array of traditional Italian cuisine, art, and entertainment. It’s safe to say that this vibrant community has delicious and exciting opportunities for those of all ages!
2. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
A place of Italian history and pride, the Little Italy of Philadelphia is an area of great hospitality and quality. This Little Italy is characterized by the outside “Italian market”, which claims to be the largest and oldest market in America! This is no ordinary market, there is a great deal of organization, love, and talent going on behind the scenes to ensure a great experience for all. Explore and enjoy the charming smorgasbord of fresh meats, cheeses, veggies and spices that will tantalize your palatte and inspire your inner chef. This neighborhood is lined with charming shops, specialty food stores, fine dining, and bars all showcasing that Italian influence. If possible, check out the Annual Italian Festival and the Procession of the Saints!
1. San Diego. California
In the “hip and historic” neighborhood of San Diego’s Little Italy, you will find a tonne of restaurants, pubs, cafes and events that are rich with authentic Italian flavors. Enjoy the certified farmer’s market full of fresh and delicious Italian favorites such as cheese, panini, sauces, meats and much more! Or, take a seat at one of the unique espresso bars in the heart of the Little Italy of San Diego. Among the most unique features of this “Little Italy” is the depth of community involvement and events it has inspired. Its unique district management corporation deals with a wide variety of community interests and ensuring high standards in every corner, it’s no wonder why this little Italy has become a favored area of play for adults and kids alike!