Little Italy is a vibrant multicultural neighbourhood in the heart of the city. Ask Torontonians about the area, and many will talk about the Good Friday procession—an elaborate affair that attracts tourists from around the world. Others will mention the Italian Walk of Fame, which honours well-known persons of Italian descent. While these are the types of attractions that garner international attention, residents are more likely to point to the everyday sights and sounds (not to mention the tastes) that make life in the neighbourhood so special.
If you’re thinking about moving to and living in Little Italy, here are a few things you should know…
1) Some of the Best Restaurants in Toronto
As you’d probably expect, Little Italy is a great place to find world-class Italian fare. Tratorria Giancarlo has been serving up flavourful, perfectly-balanced regional dishes for almost three decades. Nearby, Cafe Diplomatico (known affectionately as “the Dip”) offers beer and Italian staples on their incredibly popular patio.
Of course, Little Italy isn’t just about great pizza and pasta. DaiLo is the go-to for inventive Chinese cuisine (like smoked trout with satay sauce), while Doma offers French-inspired Korean dishes that are nothing short of inspired. Try Woodlot for Canadian comfort food, and Bar Isabel for some of the most incredible tapas you’ll ever sample.
2) You’ll find the perfect watering hole—no matter your style
If you’re looking for an after-dinner cocktail (or just a pint in a cozy space), Little Italy won’t disappoint. Whatever your poison—and whatever type of atmosphere you’re looking for—you’ll find it in this vibrant central Toronto neighbourhood.
I can’t say enough about Bar Raval, a wildly-popular tapas restaurant that doubles as a nighttime hotspot. Patrons flock to the bar for its impressive cocktail list and gorgeous ambiance (the interior features rich mahogany panelling). If you’d prefer something more low-key, check out the Walton—a cozy cafe and bar that serves classic cocktails and savoury snacks (think charcuterie). Other local favourites include the Green Room for cheap drinks and casual vibes, and Bangarang for those who fancy vintage billiard games.
3) You’ll find gorgeous period architecture
As an older neighbourhood, Little Italy contains some of the most beautiful residential homes and architecture in the city. Markham Street and Euclid Avenue feature grand Victorian-era houses, but my personal favourite has to be Palmerston Boulevard. Edwardian mansions line the boulevard, along with ornate iron street lamps that speak to the area’s heritage.
Little Italy also contains an abundance of bay-and-gable architecture. This style, which is most often found on brick townhouses and semi-detached homes, is said to be unique to Toronto. Keep an eye out for two-and-a-half-storey homes marked by gable roofs and oversized bay windows.
4) It’s home to one of central Toronto’s most popular schools
North of College Street, you’ll find one of the city’s oldest and most cherished public schools. Founded in 1888, Clinton Street Junior Public School is a neighbourhood institution. The school provides top-notch education for students from kindergarten to grade 6, as well as programs for gifted children and learners with developmental disabilities.
Students at Clinton Street enjoy a roster of clubs that cater to a variety of interests—from co-ed flag football to Dungeons and Dragons. The school also goes above and beyond when it comes to fundraising efforts. Parents take note: this educational institution has a lot of heart, and it’s part of what makes Little Italy such a wonderful place for families.
5) It’s an audiophile’s haven
No doubt about it: Little Italy is a music lover’s paradise. Along the neighbourhood’s stretch of College Street, you’ll find three of Toronto’s finest record stores.
First up, Neurotica Records. This small shop houses one of the best vinyl, CD, and tape collections in the city. Soundscapes is another local favourite. If you’re hoping to find an obscure reissue, an intimate in-store performance, or a ticket to see an under-the-radar concert, this Little Italy staple is the place to go. Last but not least, June Records is the newest addition to the College Street strip. This clean, open space boasts a fantastic musical selection, along with turntables, headphones, and other types of audio equipment.