Chicago’s Little Italy Neighborhood
Nestled on the city’s Near West Side, Chicago’s Little Italy neighborhood is one of the country’s lesser-known Italian communities. The charming neighborhood has been home to many Chicago Italians since they first reached the city in 1890. Come experience the Italian way of life in Chicago’s oldest Italian-American neighborhood.
Little Italy in Chicago, Illinois runs mainly along Taylor Street. Taylor, and connecting streets, are dotted with Italian restaurants, cafes, bakeries, pizzerias, and other attractions popular with natives and Chicago tourists alike. Perhaps the most popular food attraction is Conte Di Savoia, Chicago’s best authentic Italian grocery store. Open since 1948, the deli (1438 W. Taylor) serves up the best imported cheese, wine, and meats. Other popular Italian eateries on Taylor Street include Francesca’s Restaurant (1400 W. Taylor), and Mario’s Italian Lemonade (1068 W. Taylor).
Next to Conte Di Savoia is Piazza DiMaggio, with inviting benches that surround a beautiful fountain and sculpture of the original Yankee Clipper—Joe DiMaggio. Joseph Paul DiMaggio was born on November 25, 1914. He and his two brothers, Vince DiMaggio and Dom DiMaggio, each became center fielders on major league baseball teams. Joe bested his siblings as a member of the New York Yankees by playing in over 1700 games and hitting 361 home runs. Joe DiMaggio is enshrined in baseball’s prestigious Hall of Fame, and his 56-game hitting streak still stands as one of the most legendary and unbeatable records in all of sports.
National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame
Across Taylor Street from Piazza DiMaggio, visitors can continue to learn about Italian Americans’ contributions to the world of sports at The National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame. The Hall boasts displays dedicated to over 200 inductees like Mario Andretti, Yogi Berra, The DiMaggio brothers, Tommy Lasorda, Vince Lombardi, Tony LaRussa, Joe Montana, and Ron Santo. Newer inductees incude Mary Lou Renton and Dan Marino.
Visit the NIASHF to see Andretti’s Indy 500 race car, Mattt Biondi’s Olympic Gold Medals and Rocky Marciano’s first heavyweight championship belt.
University Village and University of Illinois at Chicago
Little Italy in Chicago, Illinois shares turf with University Village and University of Illinois at Chicago. UIC, the Windy City’s biggest college, traces its origins to 1858, and served to educate the likes of Senator Carol Moseley Braun, actor Michael Gross, CNN anchor Bernard Shaw, and former Illinois Governor Jim Thompson. One of UIC’s most popular attractions is Jane Addams’ Hull-House Museum at 800 S. Halsted Street. Addams was an early female Nobel Peace Prize winner after opening the doors of her settlement house to provide Chicago’s immigrant population with daycare, education, employment, and entertainment. Construction and expansion of the college displaced hundreds of Italian American homes and businesses, most leaving the area.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii
1224 W. Lexington Street is home to The Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii, an important Roman Catholic church with roots dating back to 1911. The historic church was made necessary by the rapidly growing Italian population of the late 19th century, as Chicago’s first parish (Holy Guardian Angel) could no longer accommodate such a large crowd.
Our Lady of Pompeii is still important to the Italian community and serves as a meeting place for several organizations such as Fieri, a group of students and young professionals age 18-39 established to celebrate, promote, and preserve Italian culture.
A trip to the neighborhood would not be complete without a visit to the nearby Arrigo Park, named for Victor Arrigo, an Illinois State Representative (and Italian American advocate) who fought to obtain a famous statue of Christopher Columbus that now stands proudly displayed in the park at 801. S. Loomis. The statue was commissioned for and displayed at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The peaceful six-acre park is in the very middle of Chicago’s Little Italy and provides the perfect location for a picnic lunch, a game of soccer, or an afternoon of people watching.