Los Angeles' early development owes a big thanks to the wave of Italian immigrants who flocked to the city in the early 1900s. Now holding the sixth spot for the largest Italian population in the US, it's no surprise how much Italians have shaped the culture of the City of Angels. America Domani has rounded up five of the oldest Italian establishments that are still kickin' in Los Angeles.
St. Peter’s Italian Church (1904)
During the massive influx of people into Los Angeles from 1880 to 1910, Bishop Conaty recognized the growing need for a church to cater to these new migrants. His vision was to foster good Catholics in accordance with Italian traditions, a sentiment he expressed during the construction phase. Fast forward to 1947, Father Michael Cecere took the reins and oversaw the construction of a new St. Peter's Italian Church on the same site, aiming to rekindle the congregation's connection to the church.
Italian Hall (1908)
Constructed using vibrant yellow brick with touches of gold, the Italian hall stood as an energetic hub where Italians came together to celebrate weddings, enjoy concerts, participate in socio-cultural gatherings, and even welcome politicians and celebrities. This historic venue played a pivotal role in advocating for free speech and supporting labor movements, especially during the era of World War II when Italians faced unwarranted suspicion. Today, the Italian Hall has transformed into the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles, preserving the legacy of southern California’s Italian culture, with a special focus on the rich history of Los Angeles. This museum offers an opportunity to delve deeper into the culture and heritage of West Coast Italians.
Bay Cities Italian Deli (1925)
This classic old-school deli was first established just two doors down from its current location. The intriguing tale surrounding its original owner, Antonio DiTomasi, says he relocated to Los Angeles to escape mob connections from his past life as a Chicago Police officer. Regardless of the real story, a visit to Bay Cities Deli offers a chance to explore a wide range of Italian grocery items, fresh cold cuts from their expansive deli counter, and ready-made sandwiches.
Barone's Pizzeria (1945)
Back in 1945, the original pizzeria kicked off its journey on Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks, under the management of a pair of twins hailing from Buffalo, NY. Renowned for its distinctive square-cut pizza, this spot deviates from the norm by using Monterey Jack cheese instead of the traditional mozzarella. The year 2006 marked a relocation to the former Heidelberg building, preserving its charming ambiance with its dark wood walls, stained glass, and intricately carved beam ceilings. Known for its appearance in the film Fast Times at Ridgemont High, the old Heidelberg building now houses Barrone’s, making it a landmark that's both familiar and new.
With a history spanning over 70 years, this Italian restaurant remains a beloved family venture, now thriving at two separate locations: its original spot on Las Palmas Avenue and another near Universal Studios. A unique touch is that a Miceli family member is always present in either location. The iconic Hollywood eatery boasts a star-studded guest list, including Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra. Monroe herself acquired the skill of pizza-tossing at the Beverly Hills site, where she dedicated two nights a week to practice her craft.
Assistant Editor for America Domani, AJ Forrisi is a Brooklyn-based writer and photographer. His work focuses on food, travel, sports, landscapes, and urban scenes. You can find him on Instagram @aj.photo.works.