Italians are one of the largest ethnic groups in the United States. The Italian community has managed to preserve its culture by establishing neighborhoods filled with the Italian spirit, arts, and food. Today, the Little Italy neighborhoods exist in several cities across the United States. If you are craving homemade cannoli or authentic fresh pasta, there’s a good chance you’ll satisfy your palate in one of these three Little Italy neighborhoods around the U.S.
1. San Diego, California
Italian immigrants were drawn in San Diego around the 1920s, when Italian families seeking jobs were attracted by the city’s tuna fishing industry. At that time, they established an Italian neighborhood near downtown San Diego. After a sharp decline, the neighborhood recently recovered thanks to the creation of the Little Italy Neighborhood Association in 1996. Since then, Little Italy has served as a thriving district with a rich Italian culture. Today, the city boasts one of the most active Italian communities of the West Coast, and San Diego’s Little Italy is the core of this vibrant community. In San Diego’s Little Italy, you will find plenty of restaurants, bars, and cafes serving authentic Italian specialties, including a true Italian espresso. Moreover, San Diego’s active Italian community organizes various events for adults and kids, such as a Venetian-style Carnival in February, and a Sicilian Festival in May. On Saturday mornings, a farmers market called Little Italy Mercato offers fresh Italian products, including different types of cheese, panini, and meats, as well as flowers and much more! The community’s heart is Piazza della Famiglia, a European-style square dominated by a beautiful tiled fountain and filled with various Italian-style places to eat and drink. One of the main areas is India Street, where you will find plenty of restaurants, shops, and cafes offering traditional and contemporary Italian cuisine. Some top spots include Civico 1845, Rovino Rotisserie and Wine, and Bencotto Italian Kitchen.
2. Boston, Massachusetts
In Boston, the Little Italy district is situated in the North End neighborhood of the city, which became a hub for Italian migrants in the early 1900s. In previous times, the area was populated mostly by Jewish and Irish immigrants, but throughout the years, the district has established solid Italian roots. Today, the area boasts cobblestone streets, historic homes, and waterfront views that recreate Italy’s atmosphere. Boston’s Little Italy obviously offers a plethora of restaurants, bakeries, cafes, and pubs where you’ll have a chance to enjoy exquisite Italian food, from pasta to pastry to cheese to meats. A popular place is Caffè Vittoria, where you can enjoy cannoli, sfogliatelle (a sweet ricotta-filled pastry), tiramisù and many more specialties. If you’re craving pizza, Regina Pizzeria is a historical place that offers delicious brick oven pizza since 1926. If you like soccer, then visit the Caffè dello Sport, a place founded over 60 years ago where locals go still today to watch soccer games. This area of Boston is also famous for the Harborwalk and Freedom Trail, which runs right through the heart of the North End, as well as for historical sites such as the Old North Church and the Paul Revere House. Throughout the year, the Italian community organizes several festivals, feasts, and events to keep the Italian spirit alive, such as the Fisherman’s Feast, the Feast of Saint Joseph, and the Feast of Saint Anthony.
3. Manhattan, New York
Manhattan’s Little Italy is one of the oldest Italian neighborhoods in the U.S., and probably also one of the best ones. Additionally, Manhattan’s Little Italy served as the backdrop to movies such as “The Godfather” and “Donnie Brasco,” making it also one of the best-known. Running for only three blocks along Mulberry Street, the Italian neighborhood has reduced its size over the years. However, there are still several authentic businesses that keep the Italian culture alive, such as artisanal food shops, restaurants, and bakeries. Manhattan’s Little Italy is a year-round destination for Italian food and drinks. Try the pizzeria Rubirosa, a family-run Italian-American pizza place, and Ferrara Bakery & Café, a place that dates its origin back to 1892. If you’re looking for Italian wines, then Mount Carmel Wines & Spirits is the place to go to taste the best Tuscan, Piedmont and Veneto wine varieties. One of the best times to visit is probably September, when the neighborhood celebrates the annual Feast of San Gennaro, which follows the Naples tradition of celebrating the patron saint of the Italian city. The festival lasts for 11 days and boasts a giant parade, live music, street food vendors, and contests such as the “cannoli-eating contest.” The feast has been celebrated since 1926 and attracts more than a million people each year.