Little Italy, Chicago

Little Italy, sometimes combined with University Village into one neighborhood, is on the Near West Side of Chicago, Illinois. The current boundaries of Little Italy are Ashland Avenue on the west and Interstate 90/94 on the east, the Eisenhower Expressway on the north and Roosevelt to the south. It lies between the east side of the University of Illinois at Chicago campus in the Illinois Medical District and the west side of the University of Illinois at Chicago campus. The community was once predomanently Italian immigrants but now is made up of diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds as a result of immigration, urban renewal, gentrification and the growth of the resident student and faculty population of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Its Italian-American heritage is primarily evident in the Italian-American restaurants that once lined Taylor Street. The neighborhood is home to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame as well as the historic Roman Catholic churches Our Lady of Pompeii, Notre Dame de Chicago, and Holy Family.

The recent history of the neighborhood waves of urban renewal, starting with the construction of expressways in the 1950s, the development of UIC in the 1960s, the demolition of public housing in the 1990s and 2000s, and redevelopment of Maxwell Street in the 2000s. Along with these changes, housing prices in the area have risen.

While there are several Italian-American communities that thrive within the Chicago metropolitan area, Taylor Street, the port-of-call for Chicago's Italian American immigrants, inherited the title of Chicago's "Little Italy." Taylor Street's Little Italy is part of a larger community area — Chicago's Near West Side. Dominant among the immigrant communities that comprised the Near West Side during the mass migration of Europeans around the start of the 20th century, were Italians, Greeks and Jews. Other ethnic groups vacated the neighborhood beginning in the early 1900s, and only the Italian-American enclave remained as a vibrant community.

Other ethnicities have always been present in the area known as "Little Italy." Nonetheless, the neighborhood was given its name due to the strong influence of Italians and Italian culture on the neighborhood throughout the 19th and 20th century. The Italian population, peaking during the decades of the 1950s and '60s, began declining shortly after the decision to build the University of Illinois in the area was finalized in 1963. However, several Italian restaurants and businesses remain in the formerly prominent Taylor Street corridor.

Italians began arriving in Chicago in the 1850s in small numbers. By 1880, there were 1,357 Italians in the city. By the 1920s, Italian cookery became one of the most popular ethnic cuisines in America, spawning many successful bakeries and restaurants—some of which prospered for generations and continue to influence the Chicago dining scene today. By 1927, Italians owned 500 grocery stores, 257 restaurants, 240 pastry shops, and numerous other food related businesses that were concentrated in the Italian neighborhoods.

The immigration of Italians accelerated throughout the late 19th century and into the early 20th century. Chicago's foreign-born Italian population was 16,008 in 1900 and peaked at 73,960 in 1930. The largest area of settlement was the Taylor Street area, but there were also 20 other significant Italian enclaves throughout the city and suburbs. This was the home of the Genna crime family.

This page was last edited on 10 June 2018, at 16:00 (UTC).
Reference:,_Chicago under CC BY-SA license.

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