Little Italy was once a real slice of ethnic Chicago, filled with Italian families and the shops and restaurants that served them.
The neighborhood, on Taylor Street near the University of Illinois at Chicago, has changed a lot since then.Now Indian and Thai restaurants are interspersed with Italian bakeries and trattorias, lending a more multicultural mix to this classic Chicago neighborhood. But it’s worth a trip and can make a fun afternoon with the kids, especially if you have a teen or tween who loves sports.
My recent visit started with lunch at Pompei, at 1531 W. Taylor St. For less than $15, my teen son and I enjoyed a filling lunch of hand-rolled pizza and pizza strudels, with a tasty salad and drinks. Order at the counter of this casual restaurant and it’s not long before the waitress brings out your meal.
For an even quicker meal, we’ve also stopped at Conte Di Savoia, 1438 W. Taylor St. You can grab a sandwich at this Italian grocery and deli and enjoy it at the nearby piazza, with bronze sculpture and fountain, dedicated to Yankee legend Joe DiMaggio.
Next, visit the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame. This museum is open daily and features the sports equipment of famous Italian athletes such as female hockey great Cammi Granato or legendary boxer Rocky Graziano. In addition to their equipment, each area also has small digital screens and buttons to press to see videos about the sports greats. After you’re done checking out the exhibit halls, head up to the fourth floor for spectacular views of the skyline and the surrounding city. The museum is small-your entire visit will likely last less than an hour.
Parking was easy along Taylor Street and there are more attractions if you venture west on Taylor Street, including Al’s #1 Beef and Mario’s Lemonade.