Little Italy, a Chicago Neighborhood Visitor Guide from Chicago Traveler

Piazza DiMaggio Chicago

History

Christopher Columbus Statue Chicago

Christopher Columbus Statue Chicago

Italians first began coming to Chicago in the 1850’s. By the end of the 19th century, they were immigrating to Chicago from Italy in rapidly increasing numbers. In 1900, there were 16,008 Italians in the city. By 1930 that number had multiplied by almost five. Most of these immigrants held labor-intensive jobs; they worked for the railroad, for factories and at construction sites.

While Italian immigrants settled all over the city, the area now known as Little Italy Chicago saw the greatest concentration. As these immigrants settled and became more prosperous, they began to have an impact on the city. The Italian Socialist Federation was established in 1908, and by the early 1900’s there were several Italian parishes around Chicago. The increased activity of the Italian mafia in the 1920’s also brought Italians to prominence. The Italian Welfare Council was established in 1945; this was changed to the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans in 1952, and along with over 150 other Italian organizations, caters to the cultural and professional needs of Italian Americans in Chicago.

Chicago's Little Italy is bordered on the North by the Eisenhower Expressway, on the East by the Kennedy Expressway, on the South by Roosevelt Road and on the West by Polk Street.

Community

Little Italy Chicago

Little Italy Chicago

The Little Italy Chicago community is densely populated and diverse. While many of the inhabitants of the area are students attending the University of Illinois at Chicago, there remains a significant number of Italian families living in the area. As the neighborhood becomes more affluent, young professionals have also begun to buy condominium space in the area.

The University of Illinois at Chicago is a major part of Little Italy; with over 25,000 students enrolled at the university, it is one of the largest in Chicago. A university with a strong reputation, UIC attracts a mix of students. UIC Medical Center is part of the largest medical district in Chicago; it also includes Rush University Medical Center and Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Hospital, the Illinois Medical Center, Cook County Hospital and the Veterans Administration Hospital.

Little Italy is a proud neighborhood; there are landmarks around the area that showcase Italian nationalism and culture. The National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame, founded in 1977, is “dedicated to preserving and promoting the history and heritage of Italian Americans in sports.” The Hall of Fame includes the Tommy and Jo Lasorda Exhibit Gallery, the Grand Piazza Ballroom, the Salvatore A. Balsamo Rooftop Terrace and the new Frank Sinatra Performing Arts Center.

Piazza DiMaggio Chicago

Piazza DiMaggiol Chicago

Across the street from the Hall of Fame is the Piazza DiMaggio, built in 1998 as a gift from the City of Chicago to the Little Italy area. In the piazza is a much-photographed sculpture of Joe DiMaggio. Another landmark in the area is the Our Lady of Pompeii Church, a community center and shrine to Mary. Open to people of all faiths, the center is devoted to providing a refuge for prayer and education. Nearby is Arrigo Park, a 6-acre park whose main attraction is a large sculpture of Christopher Columbus. Named for Victor Arrigo, an Italian American who served as Illinois State Representative, the park is a picturesque haven in the midst of Little Italy.

Hotels near Little Italy

$800
$0
0
5
Hotel Info Nightly Rates*
4.125
2 Reviews
The Silversmith Hotel & Suites
4
Located in Downtown
Bar/LoungeBusiness ServicesConciergeFitness CenterFree InternetLakesidePet-FriendlyBusiness Center

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JW Marriott Chicago
4.5
Located in The Loop
Bar/LoungeBusiness ServicesConciergeFitness CenterFree InternetLakesidePet-FriendlyBusiness Center

Rates Starting At

$449* Details
HI-Chicago - a Chicago Hostel
1.5
Located in South Loop
Bar/LoungeBusiness ServicesConciergeFitness CenterFree InternetLakesidePet-FriendlyBusiness Center

Rates Starting At

$35* Details
Hilton Chicago Cultural
4
Located in Grant Park
Bar/LoungeBusiness ServicesConciergeFitness CenterFree InternetLakesidePet-FriendlyBusiness Center

Rates Starting At

$339* Details
Buckingham Athletic Club
3.5
Located in The Loop
Bar/LoungeBusiness ServicesConciergeFitness CenterFree InternetLakesidePet-FriendlyBusiness Center

Rates Starting At

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Restaurants near Little Italy

Attractions near Little Italy

Venue Info Location
Interior Architecture Tour Located in The Loop ActiveCulturalFamily FriendlyHistoricSights of ChicagoScenic

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Willis Tower Located in The Loop Sights of Chicago

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4.125
2 Reviews
Art Institute of Chicago Located in Grant Park ArtsyCulturalHistoricMuseumSights of Chicago

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Willis Tower Skydeck Located in The Loop
View 1 Promo for this attraction -
 
Family FriendlySights of ChicagoScenic

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Go Chicago Card Located in The Loop Sights of Chicago

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Chicago Family FunPass Located in The Loop Family FriendlySights of Chicago

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Chicago Pass to the City Located in The Loop MuseumSights of Chicago

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Chicago Museum Pass Located in Grant Park ArtsyGrant ParkCulturalFamily FriendlyHistoricMuseumSights of Chicago

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*Terms & Conditions: Offers, promotions and rates subject to change and may vary based upon date, length of stay and other factors. Some offers do not include taxes and fees. All offers based on availability and are subject to change without notice.

Shopping

There are a number of stores and gift shops that sell a variety of authentic Italian items, including furniture, gift baskets, and art. Make sure to visit Gina's Ice Cream Shop for a taste of some authentic Italian gelato, or Arezzo Jewelers for a gorgeous selection of handcrafted Italian charms. It's a great way to take a little piece of Italy home with you!

Restaurants

Francesca's Little Italy Chicago

Francesca's Little Italy Chicago

And when you're done shopping, make sure to take some time to enjoy one of the many Little Italy restaurants that serve up a delicious selection of Italian cuisine. With everything from pizza, to pasta, to tasty cannoli, there's something for everyone. Certain Little Italy restaurants along Taylor Street are especially well known. These include Rosebud's, Pompei, Tuscany, and Francesca's. When dining at one of these fine Little Italy restaurants, there is a sense of history and pleasure mixed with the knowledge that the establishment has been around for a long time. Serving good, hearty food is something that the Chicago Little Italy neighborhood does well.

Although less-exclusively Italian than in its early days, Little Italy Chicago is a popular part of the city offering a proud Italian culture and cuisine to locals and visitors alike.