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Toronto is a city comprised of many distinct neighbourhoods, and Little Italy is one of its jewels. Located just a bit west of the Downtown Core, Little Italy contains everything residents could want or need, including some of the best restaurants in the city.
College Street, between Bathurst and Ossington, is Little Italy’s main attraction, offering the lion’s share of the area’s restaurants. This stretch of road is also close to some other popular Toronto ‘hoods, like Kensington Market, Chinatown, Little Portugal and Koreatown, so residents are able to access a wide variety options.
But Little Italy is more than a place for food tourism. The neighbourhood offers access to numerous schools for all levels of education, and provides a quaint, family-friendly aura along its side streets. All these aspects contribute to a collective charm that has seen the area immortalized in a number of iconic films.
As a true cornerstone of Toronto, it’s hard to capture the essence of Little Italy. Though we really can’t say enough about it, we’ve compiled some of the highlights below.
Who lives in Little Italy?
Little Italy includes a wide mix of residents. There's a good number of families in the area, as well as younger singles and couples who work downtown. There's also students attending OCAD and the University of Toronto, who can make it to the St. George campus in less than 25 minutes by foot. All told, Little Italy is a diverse place that is equally welcoming to all comers.
The following data was obtained from the 2016 Palmerston-Little Italy neighbourhood census profile, and the City of Toronto Ward 19 profile. Average prices are determined by the realestatecondos.ca listings.
Population growth: 0.6%
Rent/Own: 50% / 50%
Median Age: 34
Average household income: 105,144
Average condo sale price: $1,643,814.67
Average condo rent price: $3,222.5
Average family size: 2
Population density: 9,601 people per square km
With countless nearby amenities and easy access to the whole of the Downtown Core, Little Italy earns an impressive Walk Score of 95/100.
Transit is also impeccable in this locality, with connections to the 506 College/Carlton, 511 Bathurst and 505 Dundas streetcars, and the 63 Ossington bus, all of which will take you to their respective terminal stations. These various options make Little Italy’s Transit Score a near perfect 98/100.
For bikers, College Street and Shaw Street are your corridors. Shaw is a key north-south connector that will take you from King Street all the way to Davenport. Shaw Street is particularly safe for cyclists thanks to frequent speedbumps.
Drivers will likely stick to the main roads of College, Bathurst, Ossington and Dundas St. W., when heading for farther destinations. When leaving Toronto, residents have close access to the Gardiner Expressway.
Little Italy amenities
The amenities of Little Italy are neverending, with College Street offering anything you could possibly need. Whether you’re in search of a doctor, dentist, grocery store, bank, Tim Hortons, Starbucks, Shoppers Drug Mart, LCBO, Beer Store, YMCA, or Service Canada Centre, you won’t have to look too hard.
Though Little Italy is famous for food, it also boasts a thriving specialty retail scene. College has hardware stores, bookstores, furniture stores, record stores and independent boutiques. One highlight is the cool hybrid store Motoretta, a retailer that sells both motor scooters and trendy clothing.
South of Little Italy, near Trinity Bellwoods Park, you can visit Drake’s OVO store, or head east to Kensington Market and enjoy an afternoon of vintage crawling. West Queen West is another area that’s easy to explore from a Little Italy home base.
Well-known restaurants and cafes
Little Italy is a food lover’s dream. True to its name, there’s an emphasis on classic Italian dishes, including some superb pizza and pasta, but the neighbourhood is so much more than that.
College Street itself is best described as an exploration of world food. The neighbourhood has some of the best access to Toronto’s diverse culinary scene, with restaurateurs praying to nab a spot on the popular lunch and dinner strip. College plays host to some of the city’s brightest young chefs, who are challenging what diners expect from their meals in the best way possible.
What are you hungry for? There are plenty of bakeries and innovative snack bars; Spanish, Mexican, Japanese, Middle Eastern, and Vietnamese options; vegetarian places, brunch spots, cafes and pubs; local butchers and fruit markets - the list goes on and on. But, of course, the Italian food is really what sets Little Italy apart.
Notable neighbourhood spotlights go to (drumroll please): Vivoli, Trattoria Taverniti, Bar Raval, Pinky’s Ca Phe, Bar Isabel, Aunties & Uncles, College Falafel, P.G. Clucks, The Big Chill, Kalendar, Cafe Diplomatico, Bitondo’s, California Sandwiches, and Duff’s Famous Wings.
And because Little Italy borders other foody hotspots, like Kensingon Market, Chinatown and Koreatown, it would take a lot of time and dedication to eat your way through your surroundings.
Once you’ve satisfied your palate with some of the city’s best grub, it’s time to explore the non-edible amenities. Luckily, you won’t have to travel far from College Street to find some exciting options.
First off, there are literally hundreds of bars between Ossington and Bathurst along both College and Dundas streets, so you’ll have no trouble finding a drink.
Secondly, Little Italy has a cinema called The Royal, which plays a couple Hollywood flicks each night.
Next, the Mod Club Theatre is a short walk towards Ossington Avenue and hosts music concerts of all genres, plus DJ and dance nights. Performers usually play the Mod Club right before they blow up. The venue has hosted the likes of The Weeknd, Amy Winehouse and Jessie Reyez, to name a few.
Across the street is Revival Bar, a large club that hosts musical events on a rotating monthly basis.
The Monarch Tavern is a longtime fixture of Little Italy’s backstreets with two levels: an upstairs sports pub and a downstairs venue space. Operating since 1927, it’s one of the oldest licenced establishments in the city and deserves a historic ‘cheers’ if you ever stop by.
Combine these neighbourhood classics with karaoke on Bloor, Kensington Market block parties, and regular street festivals on Dundas and College, and there’s something for everyone. New establishments are popping up every year, looking to make their mark on Little Italy, so keep your eyes peeled for the next big thing.
Schools in Little Italy
Little Italy is a hotbed of educational institutions, making it a wonderful place to raise a family.
Public elementary schools include Clinton Street Junior Public School, Dewson Street Junior Public School, Montrose Junior Public School, Ossington/Old Orchard Junior Public School, King Edward Junior and Senior Public School and Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau Elementary, the latter being an entirely French school.
Nearby Catholic schools include Pope Francis and St. Francis of Assisi.
Nearby public high schools include Central Technical School, Harbord Collegiate Institute, and Central Toronto Academy.
Little Italy is also down the street from University of Toronto’s St. George campus. If you walk a bit farther South you’ll land at the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD). The neighbourhood is also right in the middle of the two George Brown College campuses.
Parks in Little Italy
Besides the tree-lined streets, Trinity Bellwoods and Christie Pits are the go-to green spaces for residents of Little Italy. There are some smaller patches of parkland scattered throughout the neighbourhood, but these two are the ones to write home about.
Trinity Bellwoods is to Little Italy’s south and gets very busy during the summer months, thanks to its central location, large fields, popular events and recreational options.
Christie Pits can be found to the north of the neighbourhood and features summer movie nights, two baseball diamonds, a soccer field, jungle gym and basketball court. Christie Pits also has an outdoor swimming pool, serving Toronto with a fresh place to cool off during those heatwave summers.