Little Italy, talvolta chiamata University Village, è un quartiere nel Near West Side di Chicago, delimitato da Ashland Avenue a ovest, Morgan Street a est, Eisenhower Expressway a nord e Roosevelt Road a sud. Oggi la comunità è composta da diversi gruppi etnici e socio-economici come risultato dell’immigrazione, del rinnovo urbano e della crescita della popolazione residente per la presenza dell’Università dell’Illinois, ma la sua eredità italo americana rimane evidente grazie alla presenza di numerosi ristoranti italiani, della National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame (un’organizzazione che onora i migliori atleti di origine italiana negli Stati Uniti) e di amate chiesa cattoliche. I primi immigrati italiani a stabilirsi a Chicago a metà dell’Ottocento si stabilirono su o nei pressi di Taylor Street, che ancora oggi rimane la strada più importante di Little Italy.
Once the center of the windy city’s Italian American community, Little Italy Chicago is still home to some of the city’s best Italian restaurants and bars. Its close proximity to the University of Illinois at Chicago has also dubbed the area University Village, but its Italian American history holds fast. The area on the near west side of Chicago 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. On Little Italy’s best-known street, Taylor Street, and its surrounding area, visitors and locals can dine at some of the city’s favorite Italian spots. The Taylor Street Festa, formerly Festa Italiana, returned in August 2018.
Italian immigrants came to Chicago as early as the 1850s with the heaviest concentration settling on or near Taylor Street. The area shrunk in size after the construction of the Eisenhower Expressway in the 1950s. In the early 1960s, when plans to build the University were finalized, the Italian population in the Little Italy area dwindled further as many were against the idea. Florence Scala, Chicago’s Legendary Taylor Street activist, even took the development project and Mayor Richard J. Daley to the Supreme Court, to no avail, in hopes of “saving” her neighborhood. Since then, rents and property values have risen. And, while the area is more diverse nowadays – Japanese, Thai, Mexican, and Indian restaurants have since opened – it still shows signs that it was one of Chicago’s original ports of entry for Italian immigrants.
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