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Curious about LIttle Italy

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Long Island, New...
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Curious about LIttle Italy

We just came back from Montreal and took the metro to Jean Talon. We stopped at the market, of course, which is definitely worth going to.

We then started walking around the area. My husband was expecting lots of cafes lined up along the streets but we only saw 1 or 2 cafes. Did we perhaps not walk as far as we should have. I guess what I'm trying to say is that we expected something different from Little Italy.

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1. Re: Curious about LIttle Italy

OK Rick is donning his teacher hat for a bit of history and topology.

Although there was Italian immigrants as far as late XVIII Centuryin Mtl oyr main immigration waves from "la bottega" came after WWI and a second one after WWII.

As you might have noticed Mtl has been built on a (somewhat irregular) orthogonal plan. Meaning that streets crosseach other perpendicularly. Well of course the streets are not as wide in Old Mtl and due to Mount Royal and the Sherbrooke hilll it is not completely straightforward like Chicago, for example, or Manhattan north of Greenwich Village.

When you think of Little Italies around you think mainly about those of NYC and Boston and those are located in non orthogonal sections of towns dating from the XIX Century, which add to the charm.

Here it happened just in between the two wars, the duccessive waves of immigrants getting of boats would just walk on Saint-Laurent blvd settle around and open business for their community. In between the wars there was a new expansion between Saint-Denis and Saint-Laurent, north of the train tracks so Italians settled there next door to French Canadians. Jean-Talon market was already planned for this new development but the influx of Italians made it more important with more choices, including some coming from Italian producers, zucchinis were not well known then.

Beside living and often working in nearby garnment district with French Canadians there was a lot of assimilation and intermarriage but also many institutions that opened specifically for the Italian community.

After WWII the new wave of Italian immigrants settled somewhere else, in then suburb of Saint-Léonard and tended to assimilate more with the anglophone community. A second Little Italy was started there and last until these days but it is absolutely charmless, just scattered cafés, grocery stores, travel agencies and wedding reception room in all the bleakness of the 50's burbs.

As for the old Little Italy well it is part of the whole urban tissue around and many shops around the market stalls that everybody now consider parts of the market proper are in fact independently owned businesses, many by Italians, for example Chez Nino with some of the best exotic produces in town. As for the rest the exodus of the population to the burb and the layout of large sts doesn't make it so scenic. One must just get some prior informations to justify an interesting visit. Like for the frescoes of Nostra-Dama della Difensa church that has Mussolini cavorting with saints, the very art deco Casa d'Italia where fascists took refuge when WWII was declared, etc. And also two not to miss businesses: Milano a supermarket with all things Italian foodwise and Quincaillerie Dante

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2. Re: Curious about LIttle Italy

So to conclude on this quite complety and extensive overview of Little Italy

(Excellent Rick ! )

I will just add by saying that you will find most of businesses of the little Italy (restaurants included) along St-Laurent blvd like Milano supermarket (is the library still there ?) and a few streets perpendicular from St-Laurent like Quincaillerie Dante at the corner of Dante and St-Dominique for example.

The best atmosphere over there is during the World Cup especially if Italy wins ! lol ;-)

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3. Re: Curious about LIttle Italy

Rick, thank you for taking the time to write that post. You know I haven't been in our LIttle Italy here in Manhattan in a long time. I would bet that it has changed drastically from when I was younger. I know in Brooklyn in a very Italian area, the cafes and Italian shops just started disappearing after a while.

Thanks again, I've learned so much here!!! :)

Edited to add: we were looking for the Difesa church, couldn't find it. (had a map on me too and we're not ones to get lost very easily) I was exhausted from walking so we gave up looking for the church and took the metro back to our hotel.

Edited: 02 August 2010, 04:25
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4. Re: Curious about LIttle Italy

Stellina

If you ever come back... The church you were looking for is located at 6 800 Henri-Julien St, not far from Quincaillerie Dante

http://tinyurl.com/29b4vyg

5. Re: Curious about LIttle Italy

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Edited: 02 August 2010, 18:05
6. Re: Curious about LIttle Italy

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