Chicago’s Italian-American heritage is well known and there are many Italian neighborhoods, but none quite like Taylor Street’s Little Italy. The neighborhood is also known as University Village as it encompasses the Chicago campus of the University of Illinois (UIC). Home of the Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame, Little Italy is located within the Near West Side, just east of the Illinois Medical District. The CTA Blue Line ‘L’ train runs along the northern boundary, and the Pink Line is just over the western border.
Apartments in this area are generally low-rise buildings with fewer than 10 units, and median rental prices are around $1,500. Two and three-bedroom apartments are more common than studios and one-bedroom units, catering to the college student demographic. High seasonality and turnover makes summertime a more expensive time to move, but also offers the best selection of rentals.
As the mass migration of Europeans started in the early 20th century, many of the earliest ethnic groups of the Near West Side vacated, but the Italian enclave remained. By 1930 Chicago’s foreign-born Italian population had grown to over 70,000 and many of them called the Taylor Street area home. The construction of the University of Illinois Medical District after World War II and the UIC Circle campus in 1963 displaced many residents and was detrimental to the cohesion of the Little Italy neighborhood. Nonetheless, the school has been a catalyst of the gentrification of this and surrounding areas.
The vibe of the area is very young, with businesses and bars made for college students, while still maintaining the Italian character. Although UIC is a commuter school many of the over 27,000 students enrolled call University Village home. The area is eerily quiet when school is not in session. Property crime is high in the area, due to the close proximity to the gentrifying areas south of Roosevelt and west of Ashland.
There are 5,237 people living in Little Italy, with a population density nearly twice that of the city average. Median income is $60,500. Approximately 50% of the population identifies as White and 25% identify as Asian. Average household size is 2.3.
The Hull House is located here, and is preserved by UIC school of Architecture. Built in 1889 it served the area through community development and services primarily for women and underrepresented groups.
Bring your appetite when you come to Little Italy, but don’t expect pizza. Tuscany on Taylor is the original restaurant of Phil Stefani’s ‘Tuscany’ empire. If you’re on a college student budget, stop into Conte Di Savoia and treat yourself to one of their delicious deli sandwiches or pick up some imported Italian ingredients to make at home. Jim’s Original Polish Sausages have satisfied many late night cravings, open 24/7.