University Village-Little Italy,
in the west side of Chicago,
is a tight-knit community that stands as one of the most diverse in the city. The expansion of the University of Illinois at Chicago helped diversify this neighborhood and bring in residents from all backgrounds and areas of the world. A popular destination for the city's best Italian cuisine, this neighborhood hosts a vibrant mixture of college students, young professionals, and working class citizens.
Found within the Near West Side
of Chicago, this neighborhood offers convenient access to the downtown Chicago metropolitan area and some of the outlying suburbs. Families, retirees and young people alike all call University Village-Little Italy home.
Schools in University Village-Little Italy
School data provided by GreatSchools
Restaurants & Nightlife
Though there are plenty of restaurants and cafes serving cuisines from around the globe, University Village-Little Italy's infamous Italian eateries hold center stage. Find your favorite rendition of the classic dishes pizza, pasta and Italian subs along popular Taylor Street.
On a hot day, quench your thirst at Mario's Italian Lemonade with authentic shaved ice, a frozen Italian lemonade or one of their dozens of Italian ice flavors. This curbside stand serves its treats to go, making them an ideal refreshing stop on an afternoon stroll.
To get a taste of Little Italy's history try some authentic Sicilian cuisine at Pompei. Known as one of the oldest restaurants in the area, Pompei puts a spin on many signature Italian dishes such as herb chicken ravioli in cream sauce or pizza strudel.
Enjoy an Original Maxwell Street Polish Sausage Sandwich, the signature offering at Jim's Original. This famous hot dog stand sits on the corner of Maxwell and Halstead Streets and is perfect for your late-night grub grab: it literally never closes.
Most nightlife in the area caters to college students and consists mostly of sports and dive bars. Visit the Hawkeye's Bar and Grill in the heart of University Village-Little Italy for live music, a party atmosphere and specials whenever any Chicago sports teams play. Enthusiasm for the home team overflows at the hockey team's official bar, along with beers on tap and daily drink specials. Get there early on Blackhawks game days to get a table with a view of the action on-screen.
History & Culture
With its strong ties to Italian culture and a rich lineage that dates back to the 1850s, Little Italy is perhaps one of the most historically rich neighborhoods in all of Chicago. Italian subculture rose to prominence in Little Italy and throughout the city in the 1920s. By 1952, there were over 150 Italian organizations designed to cater to the needs of Italian-Americans living in the Windy City.
While modern day Little Italy is far more diverse than it was during its beginnings, there is still a large number of Italian families that have remained in the area for decades. This small community places great emphasis on honoring its past, and countless landmarks around Little Italy promote Italian culture and nationalism. Explore Italian-Americans' impact on sports with a visit to the massive National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame and its successes in music at the Frank Sinatra Performing Arts Center and the Grand Pizzaz Ballroom.
In addition to monuments like Piazza DiMaggio that honors famous Italian-American athletes, shrines also pay homage to religious icons such as Mary. The neighborhood's ties to the Catholic tradition are apparent in landmarks such as Our Lady of Pompeii Church.
Making the trip to Little Italy from most areas of the city is simple. This neighborhood is just four miles from the Magnificent Mile and is easily accessible to both the 290 and 94 Expressways. Roosevelt Road creates a border along the edge of Little Italy that makes traveling in and out of the neighborhood a breeze.
Car travel is quick and convenient, and taxis are easy to hail in this neighborhood. Little Italy has some street parking, garages and public parking lots, but thanks to its dense population, public parking can present a challenge. Uber has a strong presence within Little Italy, and the prominence of young professionals and college students keep many Uber cars in the area.
As with the rest of Chicago, Little Italy features several local bike lanes and bike parking. However, you might choose to use the public transportation offered by the bus and train lines. The CTA’s Blue Line picks up and drops off on Halstead, while the 9 Ashland bus also runs throughout the area and to the rest of the city.
Life in Little Italy tends to carry a relatively average cost of living when compared to the rest of Chicago, but there are plenty of opportunities to invest in more luxurious real estate. Apartments in the area are not the cheapest in the city, but they are also not the most expensive either. With a mixture of new luxury high rises and college-friendly apartments within the neighborhood, the average cost of a one bedroom
apartment in Little Italy is approximately $1,000 per month.
The shopping scene in Little Italy offers a diverse experience that fits in seamlessly with the unique attitude of this Chicago neighborhood. One of the most iconic destinations in all of Little Italy is the Maxwell Street Market. While the market has moved from its original, the Maxwell Street Market has been selling trinkets, clothes and handmade goods for more than 100 years. This open air style market offered small growing companies at the time the opportunity to grow their business and for struggling immigrants to earn extra cash. There are still plenty of unique finds to be had at the market for those seeking an authentic Little Italy shopping experience.
Stroll along the infamous Taylor Street of the neighborhood to visit Market Fresh Books, to browse through a massive selection of used titles. The company actually sells their books by the pound, instead of by the title, for those looking to stock up with several new reads. Another unique shopping experience lies just down the street at First Aid Comics, which has a little bit of something for everyone from the casual reader to the avid comic fan.
While there are some chain groceries and convenient stores throughout Little Italy, such as Costco and Jewel Osco, many of the locals visit the family owned Italian supermarkets in the area. Visit La Providencia grocery store for all of your cooking and baking needs or Conte Di Savoia to pick up a sandwich while you shop for the basics.
Despite its surroundings of massive skyscrapers and bustling city life, there is still plenty of green space within the neighborhood of Little Italy.
When it comes to parks within the University Village-Little Italy area, nothing compares to the beauty and splendor of Arrigo Park. As the main park of the neighborhood, this massive green space draws lots of locals and visitors alike. With more than six acres of manicured green space, statues, jogging paths, benches and fountains, Arrigo Park offers a quite retreat from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding city life. While Taylor Street is the most common destination for festivals and events in the area, the park offers plenty of green space for local gatherings and smaller events.
While it does not offer much in terms of greenery, there is also a public bocce ball court located on Taylor Street. Found right across the street from the Conte di Savoia, this outdoor bocce set up squeezes in the opportunity for fun amongst the busy storefronts and apartment buildings of the neighborhood’s main strip.