Toronto/Little ItalyToronto : Little Italy
Little Italy is in Toronto.
Bending itself along College Street from Bathurst Street to Dovercourt, bounded by Harbord Street to the North and Dundas Street to the south, Little Italy is one of the numerous Italian neighbourhoods in Toronto, and is the best known. The heart of this trendy district with a European flair is College and Clinton Streets. Trendy bars, restaurants and shops emanate In both directions, offering a wide selection of comestibles and tchotchkas to would-be patrons. During the summer months, locals from near and far sun themselves on boulevard patios or enjoy an elixir in the balmy evening air.
Vacated by suburb-seeking Canadians of Anglo-Saxon descent, the affordable Victorian homes that line the side streets of this neighbourhood were bought up by Italian immigrants, many of whom found work on the railroads and in road construction. This influx of Italians in the community led to the opening of a number of Italian-owned businesses along College Street. It was during the 1920’s that this area became recognized as the residential and commercial centre of Toronto’s Italian community.
After the Second World War, Canada relaxed its immigration policy triggering a massive influx of Italian immigrants to Toronto. A large proportion of these immigrants made their way to College Street West, buying property from the previous generation of Italian immigrants, who, during Toronto’s boom years, moved to St. Clair West (Corso Italia) or more distant suburbs such as Woodbridge. Later, as the Italians moved out, the Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese families moved in. In recognition of its history, the local College Street business association officially adopted the “Little Italy” moniker in 1985. Today, Little Italy's population is quite ethnically diverse, all the while maintaining its Italian-European flair.
More recently, the area's influence has begun spread westwards with the opening of a number of trendy bistros and cafés towards Ossington Avenue. While not quite as recognisable as the stretch east of Dovercourt, the once-downtrodden area is beginning to follow the cue of Queen West further to the south, and is experiencing growing interest from those seeking "the next hip area".
By public transit
The number 506 (Carlton) streetcar line runs through the middle of the district along College Street, and can be caught at Main Street, College and Queen's Park subway stations or at any street-level stop along its route.
College Street has bicycle-only lanes on either side of the street, one of the only major streets with bicycle lanes downtown. There are numerous poles to which you can lock your bike all along College Street. The bike lanes run next to parked cars, therefore it is important to watch for drivers opening doors.
- College Street United Church, 452 College Street (506 Streetcat to Bathurst Street or 511 Streetcar to College Street), ☎ 416 929 3016. This church, built in 1885 fell into hard times in the 1990s and decided to demolish most of the church in order to build condominiums. All that now remains of the original church is the church tower, however the church is still in operation, utilizing the ground floor of the condo building.
- American Apparel, 533 College Street (506 Streetcar to Euclid Ave.), ☎ 416 920 7007, . Mon-Wed 10am-8pm, Thu-Sat 10am-9pm, Sun 11am-8pm. Cheap, cotton T-shirts and skinny jeans, all made in downtown Los Angeles.
- Dominion, 735 College Street (506 Streetcar to Shaw Street), ☎ 416 533 2515, . 24h. Large supermarket located in a small strip mall with free parking.
- Kalender Koffee House, 546 College Street (506 Streetcar to Euclid Ave.), ☎ 416 923 4138. This busy restaurant with a large patio on College Street is a wonderful place for brunch any day of the week. $10-$15.
- Il Gusto, 796 College Street (NE Corner College & Roxton), ☎ 416-588-7490. Il Gusto is a relatively new addition to an up-and-coming area, and if the food is any indication, it's here to stay. The ravioli, served al dente with a superbly fragrant tomato sauce, is particularly good, as is the veal scallopini. Inside, the decor is warm and inviting, with exposed red brick and large windows, but the newly-built raised patio is the best spot to watch this transforming neighbourhood during the warmer months. Reasonable.
- Cafe Diplomatico & Restaurant, 594 College Street (NE Corner College & Clinton), ☎ 416-534-4637. A fixture in Little Italy, Cafe Diplomatico has been serving authentic Italian food and heated politcial discussion for years. The patio is especially popular.