Little Italy is looking fantastic! I’ve been there a few times and while there is still some work to be done, it’s definitely a very inviting place, with businesses worth patronizing and a beautiful, fun atmosphere.
The old houses, which are being converted to shops and restaurants, are looking good. The brick courtyard is very inviting and leads between a couple of these businesses to the Guadalupe Park, where recently there was the annual Italian Family Festa San Jose (click on link to see a few photos of this fun event).
Dec 10, 2013: Update from my original post of Nov 2011:
“I know a few years ago you wrote a piece about Little Italy on your site. I thought I would reconnect with you and fill you in on our progess. We purchased several homes that are being renovated as we speak and some for our Italian Cultural center/Museum, opened a new Italian Coffee shop, and have our 31 foot “Little Italy” arch close to starting construction.”
Sounds good! Let’s go support it!
Nov 23, 2011 ORIGINAL ARTICLE
The Little Italy San Jose Foundation is in the process of rebuilding the original Italian settlement neighborhood in San Jose, which dated back to about the 1870s, with a cultural center, authentic Italian shops and restaurants, and restored buildings. The cultural center offers Italian language classes for adults and children both. Eventually there will be an Italian-American Historical Museum too.
Where is Little Italy San Jose?
I had mistakenly thought that Little Italy San Jose would be in Willow Glen, but that’s not the case. This little neighborhood is close to the San Jose arena in downtown and includes Henry’s Hi-Life, which was the former Torino Hotel. You can see a map of the exact area on the LittleItalySJ site. (In the video mentioned below, we learn that originally there were 3 Italian settlements, but this one was the first. The others are Willow Glen and Goosetown.)
It’s a massive grassroots project, backed by 15 different Italian American groups or clubs, which will feature 3 archways into the neighborhood, a brick piazza, a mural underpass, a history walkway, street banners, and bocce ball courts. A few businesses are operating now, with more to come.
Volunteers have been raising both money and awareness for several years and they are making great headway. (You may recall that the old Italian cultural center, the Italian Gardens, was torn down some years ago and now is the site of apartment buildings.) There are several projects which need donations, including the archways, bocce courts, and mural. Or you can donate $100 or more and have an engraved brick for stage 3 of the piazza (square).
There’s a great video that can explain more about what the Little Italy San Jose Foundation is doing. Or read more on the website: LittleItalySJ.com.
Where to donate to help the Little Italy San Jose project
The Little Italy website has a number of projects that can be supported via donations:
The Archway (is now built!!)
The Brick Piazza
The Mural Underpass (going under Highway 87, connecting the neighborhood to downtown SJ)
Share your family’s Little Italy story
If you’d like to share some local history for this effort, your images, biographical information and more is very welcome. There’s a page for that too: http://www.littleitalysj.com/history_walk.html
On a personal note, I’m very happy to see this project moving ahead. I don’t come from Italian heritage per se but I studied Italian in college, spent a junior year abroad in Firenze (Gonzaga-in-Florence), and feel as though the Italian culture is part of my family, too. I love the food, emphasis on family, art, music and friendliness of Italy and welcome seeing more of it here in Silicon Valley.