Come for the sense of community, stay for the cannoli.
As a granddaughter of Italian immigrants, I have a penchant for immersing myself in Italian culture — namely food, wine, and language — here in the United States. When I travel, I instinctively gravitate toward locally sourced restaurants, farmers markets, and family-owned pastry shops — a true testament to my heritage.
Now, as my family in Italy will attest, Italian-American cuisine and culture differ from those in Italy, but they are not at odds with one another. In fact, the same undeniable sense of tradition persists here in the U.S., and especially in thriving Little Italy neighborhoods across the country. As a piazza, or square, is the meeting place and heartbeat of a city center in Italy, so, too, are America’s Little Italy communities. Italian immigrants built them as such, creating a similar setting in order to preserve as much of the culture they left behind as possible, despite being pressured to assimilate to their new surroundings.
These neighborhoods have long served as unifying spaces. Italian immigrants get to enjoy the community of fellow paesani, and the inviting atmosphere draws locals and tourists alike. Each neighborhood is overflowing with the familiar sights of families taking a passeggiata (or stroll), the aromatic smells of fresh pasta and pizza napoletana, and the musical sounds of the Italian language and regional dialects. Beloved for their decadent food and rich history, Little Italy destinations across the U.S. will transport you to the cobblestone streets of Italy and leave you craving more.
For those times when traveling to Italy is not feasible, here are the best and most authentic Little Italy destinations in the U.S. to visit.
The North End in Boston is the city's unofficial Little Italy, and it is emblematic of the enduring legacy Italian-American cuisine and culture have created. With lines winding down Hanover Street at Mike’s Pastry or Modern Pastry, this neighborhood — the oldest one is Boston — is teeming with delicious pastries, including some coveted cannoli.
Enjoy Southern Italian-inspired pasta dishes and pizza napoletana straight from the brick oven at Antico Forno, sip a cappuccino at Caffé Vittoria, the first Italian cafe in Boston, and taste the squid ink linguine at The Daily Catch, known for its Sicilian-style seafood and pasta dishes.
Or, for a taste of an authentic Italian festa — a festival marking the occasion of a saint’s feast day — plan your visit over the last Sunday in August for the North End’s St. Anthony’s Feast. A quintessential Italian Catholic celebration, St. Anthony’s Feast brings together vendors serving classic Italian-American foods, live musical acts, and a grand procession through the streets of the North End.
For a room with picturesque views overlooking Boston Public Garden, stay at The Newbury Boston, an elegant landmark hotel. Or, for a sophisticated waterfront room within walking distance to the North End, consider Boston Harbor Hotel at Rowes Wharf.
San Diego, California
This coastal destination attracted Italian fishermen who hoped to continue their trade in America, and there's been a major tuna fishing industry here since the early 1900s. Today, with 48-square blocks of eateries, coffee shops, and local markets, San Diego is home to the most expansive Little Italy in the U.S. The renowned Little Italy Mercato, its farmers market with local vendors, spans six blocks on Saturdays across West Date Street and three blocks on Wednesdays from Kettner Boulevard to State Street.
For an authentic Italian coffee shop experience, head to Pappalecco. Next, stop by Bobboi Natural Gelato in the Little Italy Food Hall for an artisanal gelato (must-try menu options include pistacchio della California gelato and dark chocolate sorbet). Indulge in the bruschetta with burrata and artichokes and a Margherita pizza with fresh mozzarella di bufala DOP at Isola Pizza Bar, or taste the decadent short rib pappardelle at Civico 1845. If you're shopping for items to take home, stop at Filippi’s Pizza Grotto Italian Market and The Market by Buon Appetito for their well-stocked deli counter and imported foods and wines from Italy.
Stay nearby at Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel for impeccable panoramic views of San Diego Bay and the city skyline, or visit The Guild Hotel for a luxurious boutique option within walking distance.
Providence, Rhode Island
Providence’s Little Italy in historic Federal Hill covers both Atwells Avenue and Spruce Street and has embraced Italian immigrants since the early 1900s. This bustling community has maintained its charm and continues to encapsulate the essence of a true Little Italy neighborhood through specialty stores like Venda Ravioli and Tony’s Colonial Foods, its pastry shops, and its classic Italian-American restaurants.
No trip to Federal Hill would be complete without stopping by Scialo Brothers Bakery for a sfogliatella (a traditional pastry from Naples) or other beloved Italian cookies. Dine at Il Massimo for Italian favorites like spaghettoni alla carbonara, or enjoy a fresh take on Southern Italian cuisine paired with a wine from the entirely Italian wine list at Pane e Vino.
Book your stay close by at Hotel Providence for a modern experience and polished rooms, or visit Graduate Providence for stylized accommodations in the downtown area.
New York, New York
The influx of Italian immigrants from Southern Italy began in the late 19th century, and a great number of those immigrants came to America through Ellis Island and made New York City their home. Though Lower Manhattan's Little Italy is today just a fraction of what it was in its glory days, is remains widely known.
One not-to-miss tradition here is the Feast of San Gennaro, an iconic 11-day event stretching across many blocks of Mulberry Street with incredible food, lively entertainment, and a grand procession. Make sure to stop by Di Palo's Fine Foods, a trusted and family-owned shop that's been selling a wide selection of imported prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, and assorted antipasti for nearly 100 years.
Though lesser known, many Italian-Americans consider Arthur Avenue in the Bronx to be the “real” Little Italy of New York. It is wholly worth making the trek from Manhattan to spend time in this thriving Italian-American community, which is home to authentic and long-standing mainstays, including Mike’s Deli in the Arthur Avenue Retail Market, Egidio Pastry Shop, and Mario’s Restaurant, to name a few.
For a chic hotel melding historic architecture with modern flair, stay at The Beekman, a short distance from Manhattan’s Little Italy. Known for its floor-to-ceiling windows with breathtaking views, The Dominick Hotel is conveniently located within a mile of Mulberry Street.
South Philadelphia’s Ninth Street Italian Market is the city’s Little Italy, and it has been a local fixture for more than a century. As one of America’s oldest and most expansive open-air markets, the Italian Market stretches across roughly 10 blocks and offers an amalgamation of fresh produce, butcheries, bakeries, and more.
Make your way to Di Bruno Bros. for a classic Italian-American marketplace with an impressive array of high-quality meats, cheeses, and imported specialty foods. Grab a piping-hot, delicious pizza at Angelo’s Pizzeria, and stop by the landmark Sarcone’s Bakery to pick up some bread before meandering the family-owned shops lining Ninth Street for the full Italian Market experience.
Stay at The Rittenhouse for luxe accommodations in historic Rittenhouse Square, or visit The Logan Philadelphia for an upscale hotel in Logan Square. Both options are within a few miles of the Italian Market.
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