Sep 6, 2008


Here is a tribute & guide to my favorite Little Italy's around the country that I have been to.

#1 -Boston's North End Little Italy in Boston has been settled since the 16oo's, & is rich in both history and Italian cuisine. Surrounded by water on three sides, it is picturesque from Christopher Columbus Park, to its luxury Condos & the ancient 17th Century Copps Hill Cemetery. Today the North End is best known for its American Revolution historic sites & its Italian Heritage.

The area is home to more than 80 different Restaurants, Trattoria's, Cafes, Pizzeria's & grocery stores. Once separated from the main city because of elevated highways, it is now connected to the heart of Boston with the removal of the el's & completion of the "Big Dig". The neighborhood is great to walk around, not only for the food but the historical sites. Parking is horrible so walk, cab it or take the trolley. The streets are narrow and safe to stroll.
Take it from me some one who loves good Italian food, the place is loaded with great stuff. I have been up there a few times and can only speak for the places I have been too.
Last year after attending the last Saturday night game at Fenway Park, we spent Sunday afternoon in Little Italy on a beautiful fall New England day. As the tourists were strolling & the locals were exiting church, the smell of gravy, sauce & fresh bread were in the air. We dined at Lucias next to a 17th Century church and I had some of the best home made Gnocchi I ever ate! The sausage was also excellent. The atmosphere was sensational with beautiful colorful paintings on the ceilings & the walls.

After that we strolled along the Freedom Trail & the Paul Revere Mall. Following his famous ride from his home to the Old North Church & to the banks of the Charles River, over looking the Bunker Hill Monument. On the way we had espresso & pastry at Cafe Victoria & Gelato at The Gelateria. It was a day of eating and we waited on a long line to taste the hype at the Modern Pastry shop on our way out. Tables were tight but we got one and had some nice cookies & cappuccino. Late Saturday night rocks and is packed at the Caffe Paradiso, maybe the best cafe in Boston. Little Italy also boasts the oldest Pizzeria in America & the oldest Italian Restaurants.

#2 Little Italy San Diego: Although a smaller area as compared Boston, it is also authentic. The neighborhood is truly Italian off the main drag too. It has one of the lowest crime rates of any neighborhood in San Diego. The area is close to the airport,( I-5 runs right through it to the west) & makes a great stop off for a massive meal before boarding the flight home. The main drag is India St. bordered by Grape St. & Beech Sts. In 1996 the "Little Italy Association" revived the area to what is today. There are many single family detached homes, mid-rises, high-rises condos, and lofts, with ground floor retail stores and a few commercial buildings. Many festivals are held in the area throughout the year. It is a booming area and I place I'd love to live.
Everything in San Diego is beautiful with the best climate in the country and beautiful beaches, Little Italy isn't the main tourist spot. It caters more to locals & regional tourists. In my first experience out there, I was very pleased and made sure i went back a second time.
The first time was a Sunday afternoon before a Padres game and walking along we ducked into Phillipi's, which was a deli/grocery store up front and then you went to the back where the restaurant was and it was another world. Low ceilings with hanging peppers, bottles of wine, in a dim lit atmosphere and red & white table cloths. This was like I remember Italian Restaurant's as a kid. This was the most un-West Coast place in Southern California. The food was outrageous, a great red sauce.

Next time we went to the famous Zucchero which was family run as the wife sat us down for some outside dinning on the street. We over ordered and tried bringing some food on the plane with us. Again the food was outrageous, I did not want to leave.

I Being the sports guy I am, I was intrigued at the banners of Great Italian/ American Sports heroes on the lamposts through out the city. From Mike Piazza, Barry Zito, Sal Bando, Ralph Branca, Yogi Berra, etc. I just wish I could have seen them all.

The Capitol of West Coast Stickball is right here on Columbia Street. League play is held on the 1st Sunday of every month from February to June. Labor Day weekend is a 3 day event with teams from New York, New Jersey, Florida and Puerto Rico battling against local teams.

For Bocce fans there's Amici Park. A small park located in Little Italy, where you always find "the boys" playing on the bocce courts. You can also find Italian recipes engraved onto the sidewalk plaques and tables around the park.
#3 Little Italy- Baltimore:
Situated just east of the Inner Harbor at Pratt & Albermarle Sts, it boasts one of the city's busiest restaurant districts. The neighborhood is still home to a large and active Italian community, located near newly desirable neighborhoods like Fells Point and Harbor East. Little Italy's housing market is very hot, because turnover is low in the tight-knit community. It is walkable to the touristy Inner Harbor area and to the best place in Baltimore- Camden Yards. Nothing like going to an Orioles game then a great dinner in Little Italy. The streets are narrow and parking is terrible, so either cab it or walk. There are over 20 restaurants in the small area, no trip to Baltimore is complete without coming here.

Each summer, the Little Italy community hosts an outdoor film festival. Free outdoor movies are projected onto a wall at the intersection of High and Stiles Streets. People bring chairs and blankets and watch the movie from a parking lot located at the intersection High & Stiles.

Last time down there we dined at Della Notte which was a very upscale restaurant with great atmosphere & food. Innovative and Traditional Mediterranean-inspired Italian cuisine is what they advertise and they don't disappoint. Vaccaro's Cafe was also a great night spot packed and opened very late with great drinks, cafe espresso, gelato & pastries. We had a great time there with Pie & Oi and it is a highlight to a trip to the city.

#4 The Hill- St. Louis:
The Hill is the highest point in St. Louis. The neighborhood is home to a large number of local Italian-American restaurants, bakeries, grocery stores, and two bocce gardens. The population is over three quarters Italian, mostly ancestors from those immigrants settling from Sicily & Northern Italy.

Baseball greats Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola, Sr. grew up on the Hill; their boyhood homes are across the street from each other on Elizabeth Avenue. We went there on one of our Baseball trips and found the actual homes. We talked to a local guy who claimed to have played ball with them both. He was correct in saying Yogi was coming to town the following week for a booksigning. Yogi's sister still lives in the house where he grew up. (The block was also home to Cardinals Hall of fame announcer Jack Buck & his son FOX an
nouncer Joe Buck. A Football hall of famer also lived on the block, making it the only block in America that was home to 4 Hall of Famers!)

"It's so crowded nobody goes there anymore." Was what Yogi Berra said about Ruggeri's where he and J
oe Garagiola had worked as waiters, which had become so popular that his old friends couldn't get in anymore.
The restaurant Mama Campisi's, located on The Hill, was the birthplace of the toasted ravioli.
In the photo Darren, Party Pete & Big Den are eating Italian ices. Nothing compared to Bronx Italian ices, more like flavored shaved ice but when in some where like Rome.......!!!!

#5 Little Italy Toronto: The area on College Street is a district in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is well known for its Italian Canadian restaurants and businesses. The district is centred around a restaurant/bar/shopping strip along College Street, adjacent residential area. The area was influxed by Italian immigrants in the 1920s working on the rail roads, today has become more diverse today. The tree lined side streets boast beautiful Victorian homes. Little Italy has also become popular with younger crowds because of its vibrant nightlife and its proximity to downtown. Since the 1980s, many young professionals have been buying homes in the neighbourhood. There are a good grocery stores,bakeries, cafe's & restaurants. The coffee shops and billiard halls are filled with cigarette smoke, and lots soccer talk, mostly populated by older Italian men. In summer the outdoor patio trattorias are packed with people, especially on weekends as the area has become trendy. Café Diplomatico has become a Toronto institution for coffee lovers. Affectionately known as “The Dip” by locals, the café is often used as a set by filmmakers.

We had a great lunch out doors at back in 2000, while on a trip to Toronto to see the Mets play the Blue Jays at Skydome. Hence we met Mike Piazza and he was very kool & friendly, taking pictures and talking with us.

No comments: