College Street west of Bathrust to Dovercourt Street. North of Dundas Street to Harbord Street.
College Street West and Grace Street.
Italian influenced, sidewalk cafes, walkable streets,
DID YOU KNOW?:
Local Italian favourite, Johnny Lombardi, launched the first multicultural radio station in Canada on College Street in the Little Italy neighbourhood in 1966.
Many of the better North American cities have a Little Italy. New York has one. San Francisco too. And Toronto is no exception. Like New York and San Francisco, Toronto’s Little Italy is a centerpiece of the city that pays homage to the Italians who came to our city and saved our palates from the northern European palate.
Today, Toronto’s Little Italy does not have many Italians in it. Most Italians immigrants today live outside of the city. A few Italians still live in the 2nd Little Italy of Toronto, Corso Italia. Still, the legacy of Little Italy is the Italian restaurants, the gelato ice cream stores, and sidewalk cafes left behind. Like many city ethnic enclaves in this day and age, there are many cultural groups that live here. There are many fine restaurants along the College Street strip that have no Italian food, drink and desserts and are listed at the top of Toronto’s restaurants. Still, you need to give full credit to the Italians who set the culinary bar high for this community.
Of course, the success of Little Italy as an established neighbourhood has come about for many reasons that are not centred around food. The neighbourhood took off in the 90s mostly because of its location. It was a little less expensive, at the time, than the Annex, and just west of the city but very easily accessed by car or streetcar.
The anchor of this neighbourhood is College Street, though the rise of Dundas St. in the past five years has been swift and exciting all through the west end. College Street, though, has a much more European feel. The wider boulevard really creates an open feel to the street perfect for a breezy walk on a summer’s night. The nearby residential streets have tightly packed Victorians homes.
Unlike many Toronto neighbourhoods that were invaded by condos, the condos of Little Italy are built much more to scale to the neighbourhood and blend in seamlessly. Many of the city’s first conversion lofts were built here. And they still hold up!
There was a time, not too long ago, that College Street became too full of dance clubs. If you are a dancer, this can be a good thing, but if you are a resident, it was loud and it took away from the other businesses that didn’t flourish among dance clubs. This is not the case these days. There has been an influx of new and interesting business in the past five years to bring life back to College.
The houses are not as large as you can find in High Park or Riverdale, but the neighbourhood is relaxed and confident. It doesn’t try to impress you with outrageous or grandness, but it has a sophisticated vibe that make it a good place to end up.