The name Little Italy might actually be a little bit deceiving as this Toronto neighborhood is not the exclusively Italian quarter one might expect. While the area around College Street became the commercial and residential center of Toronto’s Italian community in the 1920s, many families actually began to move away in the ‘60s and were replaced by other immigrant families mainly from China, Vietnam, Portugal, Spain and Latin America. Today, Little Italy is a very international and multicultural neighborhood that is popular with the young crowd. Although there is still that Italian atmosphere including lots of soccer fans, old Italian Nonnas and some shady Mafioso hangout spots, the name is more a nod to the role the neighborhood has played as the starting point for many Italian immigrant families in Toronto.
One of the neighborhood’s appeals is of course the Italian food and one can indulge in some authentic gnocchi, linguine and thin-crust pizzas at the many traditional trattorias, head for an espresso on the big patio of the Café Diplomatico or try some gelato at the Dolce. But also don’t miss the custard tarts at the Portuguese Riviera Bakery, churros and the fish tacos at La Carnita or the noodle soups to die for at one of the Vietnamese pho shops. Little Italy is busy around the clock with large sidewalks next to Victorian houses, many outdoor patios filled with coffee-sipping patrons and amblers walking along tree lined streets. Try to find the Italian Walk of Fame, where brass stars honor the names of remarkable Italians or head to a showing at the Royal Cinema, an alternative one-screen theatre that takes movie goers back to the old glory days of cinema.
The heart of Little Italy can be found along the stretch of College Street between Grace and Manning Streets. Get in by taking the tram numbers 306 and 506 to one of the stations along College Street.