The Little Italy 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.
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.
While Chicago’s Little Italy is not a large neighborhood, it is well known in the city for its excellent cuisine. Certain restaurants along Taylor Street are especially well-known; these include Rosebud’s, Pompeii, Tuscany, and Francesca’s. Dining at one of these, there is a sense of history and pleasure mingled with the knowledge that the establishment has been around for a long time. Serving good, hearty food is something the neighborhood does well.
Although less-exclusively Italian than in its early days, Little Italy is a popular part of the city offering a proud Italian culture and cuisine to locals and visitors alike.
Arrigo Park (Vernon Park)
- Parks & Gardens
Arrigo Park, formerly Vernon Park, is a peaceful park bordered by trees and residential Little Italy; it is a perfect spot for recreation. The statue of Christopher Columbus in the park is from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.
Free Admission | 801 S. Loomis St. | 312.742.5369
Chicago Tribute Markers of Distinction
- Other Attractions
Chicago Tribute Markers of Distinction commemorate notable Chicagoans by marking the places where they lived or worked. Since the program started in 1997, eighty markers have been placed across the city. This number will be increased to 100 markers placed by the end of 2009.
Free Admission | 78 E. Washington St. | 312.744.6630
Former site of Weisenfreund’s Pavilion Theatre
- Historical Landmarks
Oscar winning Actor Paul Muni (1895 -1967) was born Meshilem “Mooni” Meier Weisenfreund, the son of Yiddish actors. He honed his craft at his father’s Weisenfreund’s Pavilion Theatre at 12th St. (now Roosevelt Rd.) & Halsted St., in the bustling Maxwell St. area, doing his own makeup and playing a wide range of roles. Selected as a Chicago Tribute Marker of Distinction.
Free Admission | S. Halsted St. & W. Roosevelt Rd.
- Parks & Gardens
This small, tranquil park in Little Italy is dedicated to the Italian military hero, Giuseppe Garibaldi, known for the conquest of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in 1860. The park includes a playground and a Garibaldi statue and monument, originally unveiled in Lincoln Park in 1901.
Free Admission | 1520 W. Polk St. | 312.746.5369
Holy Family Church
- Historical Landmarks
Holy Family Church, founded in 1857, is Chicago’s oldest Jesuit Church. Like the neighboring St. Ignatius Prep, it escaped the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Accessibility limitations. Please contact site for more information.
Free Admission | 1080 W. Roosevelt Rd. | 312.492.8442
Jane Addams Hull-House Museum
- Art & Architecture,
- Museums & Zoos,
- Popular Attractions
This museum is a dynamic memorial to the 1931 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Jane Addams, who helped the city’s diverse immigrant communities develop roots in Chicago. Today, visitors can learn about Chicago history, borrow seeds from an heirloom seed library, learn about urban horticulture, eat soup and debate politics, and see contemporary art exhibitions.
Free Admission | 800 S. Halsted St. | 312.413.5353
National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame
- Other Attractions,
- Sports & Recreation
The National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame honors Italian American athletes with two floors of exhibits, artifacts, and video clips.
1431 W. Taylor St. | 312.226.5566
Notre Dame de Chicago
- Religious locations
This beautiful Catholic Church, known as “The parish with heart in the heart of the city,” is on a quiet tree-lined street a block away from Arrigo Park. Its great copper dome can be seen from afar. The French Romanesque church is known for its dome and the mural inside the dome. The interior includes ornate detailing in marble, blue and gold and beautiful stained glass windows at each corner of the church. All the interior needed to be restored after lightning struck the dome in 1977 and caused a devastating fire. For many years, the UIC Choirs have used this church to conduct their fall and spring concerts The acoustics in this space are wonderful.
Free Admission | 1335 W. Harrison St. | 312.243.7400
- Parks & Gardens
Built in 1998 as a gift from the City to the Little Italy area, Piazza DiMaggio has a fountain and two monuments commemorating Joe DiMaggio.
Free Admission | 1430 W. Taylor St.
Provision Theater Company
- Theater & Dance
The Provision Theater Company is “devoted to producing works of hope, reconciliation and redemption; works that challenge us to explore a life of meaning and purpose.” The small critically-acclaimed Equity theater company found a new home in the Fall of 2009 inside the former Duncan YMCA Chernin Center for the Arts.
1001 W. Roosevelt Rd. | 312.455.0065
St. Francis of Assisi Church
- Religious locations
St. Francis of Assisi Church is a perfect example of the immigration experience in Chicago. Founded in 1853, it was the first German Catholic parish on the West Side. Today, the Church is a center of the area’s Mexican community. Services are offered daily in Spanish.
Free Admission | 813 W. Roosevelt Rd. | 312.226.7575
The Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii
- Religious locations
Our Lady of Pompeii, founded in 1911, is the oldest continuing Italian-American Catholic Church in Chicago. It was built for the rapidly growing Italian population at the turn of the 20th century. While no longer a parish, it is still closely tied to the Italian-American community in Little Italy. Accessibility limitations. Please contact site for more information.
Free Admission | 1224 W. Lexington St. | 312.421.3757
- Sports & Recreation,
- Universities & Colleges
The UIC Pavilion is a sports and entertainment arena located on the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago. The Pavilion is home to UIC Men’s and Women’s Basketball.
525 S. Racine Ave. | 312.413.5700
Al’s #1 Italian Beef
- Fast Food
This is the original Al’s #1 Italian Beef dining spot, still serving Chicago’s famous Italian Beef sandwiches. Also offers fresh-cut fries, tamales, and hot dogs.
1079 W. Taylor St. | 312.226.4017
Chez Joël Bistro Français
Chez Joël’s is a sophisticated French bistro set amid the many Italian restaurants on Taylor St. It features an extensive wine list and cuisine from the south of France. Reservations are recommended. Accessibility limitations. Please contact site for more information.
1119 W. Taylor St. | 312.226.6479
Conte Di Savoia
Open since 1948, this family-owned Italian deli is the place for submarine sandwiches, salads and imported Italian gourmet goods, including olive oil, homemade pasta, and vintage Italian wines.
1438 W. Taylor St. | 312.666.3471
Fontano’s Subs has been family-owned and operated for over 50 years, serving some of the best subs in Little Italy. Their Italian sausage and meatballs are homemade, while their pasta and meats can be purchased in bulk. Accessibility limitations. Please contact site for more information.
1058 W. Polk St. | 312.421.4474
Francesca’s on Taylor
The fourth of chef Scott Harris’s Francesca’s restaurants, Francesca’s on Taylor is a fine dining Italian eatery in the heart of Little Italy.
1400 W. Taylor St. | 312.829.2828
Hawkeye’s Bar & Grill
Hawkeye’s is a popular sports bar in Little Italy, primarily attracting students from nearby UIC. It offers an upscale bar menu and daily drink specials.
1456 W. Taylor St. | 312.226.3951
- Hot Dogs
Jim’s Original started as a hot dog stand on Maxwell and Halsted streets in the 1940s, famously serving the “Maxwell Street Polish Sausage.” You can still order the sandwich, piled high with sweet grilled onions and mustard at its new location on Union.
1250 S. Union Ave. | 312.733.7820
Mario’s Italian Lemonade
This small curbside stand has been a neighborhood fixture since the 1950’s. Their Italian ices come in a variety of flavors, from the traditional lemon to peach to cantaloupe. Open from early May to mid September.
1068 W. Taylor St. | 312.829.0672
Adopting its name from the nearby Our Lady of Pompeii Church, Pompei has been a Little Italy tradition since 1909. This is the original of the local chain, which is still run by owner Luigi Davino’s family. The cafeteria-style restaurant serves pizza and sandwiches.
1531 W. Taylor St. | 312.421.5179
RoSal’s Italian Cucina
RoSal’s Italian Cucina is a very intimate nine table restaurant with personalized old black and white photos covering the walls. Featuring a menu specializing in Sicilian dishes. Reservations are highly recommended.
1154 W. Taylor St. | 312.243.2357
Sweet Maple Café
- American (Traditional)
Sweet Maple Café is a friendly, family-owned spot serving country-style home cooking in a charming dining room. Serving breakfast all day, everyday! Accessibility limitations. Please contact site for more information.
1339 W. Taylor St. | 312.243.8908
The Rosebud on Taylor is the original of the local Rosebud chain. It’s famous for its Pappardelle and Chicken Vesuvio, attracting such celebrities as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Carol Burnett, and Robert Redford.
1500 W. Taylor St. | 312.942.1117
Tuscany is designed with a strong Italian aesthetic: checkered tablecloths, wine bottles, pasta boxes and a mural of an Italian street side. It serves all the Italian favorites, as well as a few surprises like the Ravioli Pera (ravioli with roasted pear).
1014 W. Taylor St. | 312.829.1990
Greektown, Chinatown & Little Italy
Discover the history and architecture of these popular ethnic enclaves and learn about the proud immigrant communities that built them on this Chicago Neighborhood Tour of Greektown, Chinatown and Little Italy.
77 E. Randolph St. | 312.742.1190
Little Italy Neighborhood Map
Little Italy is located southwest of the Loop, with the heart of the area at Taylor Street and S. Racine Avenue. All along Taylor Street, you’ll find lots of Italian restaurants – from bakeries and sandwich shops to fine dining. Also on Taylor Street is the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame.
This map provides the approximate locations of the points of interest that are described in the partner articles regarding the South Loop neighborhood. See the links above for access to those articles.
Italians first began coming to Chicago in the 1850s. 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 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 1900s, there were several Italian parishes around Chicago. The increased activity of the Italian mafia in the 1920s 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.
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.