The North End of Boston, also known as Boston’s Little Italy, is by far my favorite Italian-American neighborhood. It has an old quaint feel with a ton of shops and restaurants that won’t disappoint. I highly recommend a visit if you are ever in or near Boston.
The History of the North End of Boston
The North End has a rich history for many Italian-American immigrants. The first Italian immigrants came from Genova in the 1860s and settled around Fulton Street. Following the Genovese were the Campani, Sicilians, and Abruzzese. When Italians first immigrated to Boston, most worked doing construction or as food vendors selling Italian products. Saint Leonard Church, founded in 1873, became the first Roman Catholic church built by Italian immigrants. Due to the population boom of Italians, many of the protestant churches eventually became catholic. By the 1900s, the Italian population in Boston grew to 14,000 and reached its peak in 1930 with a total of 44,000 Italian immigrants. As years went by, Italians assimilated more into the American culture, and by 1920 there were twenty-eight Italian doctors, six dentists, eight funeral parlors, and four barbershops in the neighborhood.
The North End of Boston Today
The North End of Boston still remains as Boston’s Little Italy. Of the current population in the North end, 41% of people are of Italian descent, and the Italian language is still commonly used. The North End has a lot of feasts throughout the year, but the main one is the Feast of Saint Anthony, which has been celebrated on the last Sunday of August since 1919. National Geographic named it the “Feasts of all feasts” since it has become the largest religious festival in New England. The feast is packed with many food vendors and includes a procession of the statue of Saint Anthony.
The Italian community in the North End is dedicated to maintaining its roots. Boston had set to open a Starbucks in the North End, and many business owners were utterly against it. They felt that many local family-owned businesses that have been passed down from generation to generation would financially suffer from the opening of Starbucks. Besides the obvious financial reasons, many opposed to the opening of Starbucks because they felt it went against what the North End of Boston stands for. The business owners took pride in themselves for keeping traditions and staying true to their Italian heritage. Opening a Starbucks would go against the overall vibe of the neighborhood, and they felt like it would initiate the beginning of other corporate companies invading Boston’s North End. Part of the beauty of the North End of Boston is the preservation of original one of a kind mom and pop shops.
I highly recommend a visit to the North End of Boston for an authentic experience of a true Italian neighborhood. The North End is full of delicious Italian restaurants, delis, pastry shops, and specialty shops. All are worth visiting, but there are too many to cover in just one day. Not to mention, Paul Revere’s house is located right in the North End!
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