Burlington's Little Italy
—"Piccola Italia" —
Imagine yourself back in time...
As you enter the corner grocery store, your senses are captivated by the aroma of the Italian cheeses- the provolone hanging from the
ceiling, the freshly grated Romano,
the feta and the gorgonzola. You
look around to find the counters displayed with Italian delights like
Torrone candies, or Italian cookies
and biscotti. The olives imported from Italy are kept in barrels, loose pasta in boxes, and imported Italian meats and sausages are kept in glass cases. U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy
fondly remembers traveling from
Montpelier to Burlington
in Little Italy with his mother in the 1940s. "It was a real Italian
community...she would rapid fire Italian with the store owners and all of a sudden the bottom shelf would open up and the better cheeses would come out. I thought it was great!"
Closed only on Sunday afternoons, the grocery stores in this neighborhood were busy gathering places where everybody knew you and your family. While you shopped, you could get tips on finding a new job, or a place to live. You'd learn the neighborhood gossip and even get news from Italy there. If you listened closely, you could hear Italian being spoken by the elders. Within this 27-acre, four-square-block area, there were at least five grocery stores: Merola's, Izzo's
Bellino's Corey's and George's. Today, neighborhood groceries have been replaced by chain grocery stores and big box stores. Gone are the days when your local grocer knew your family by name. Some of the buildings that housed the neighborhood grocery stores remain, but changing demographics and the automobile led most modern American supermarkets to be built outside of city centers. Interior of Bellino's Store at the corner of Cherry and Battery Streets. Shown are the grocers Carmelo Bellino and his son Joseph circa 1928. The family of 7 lived upstairs
1886 Immigrants from Italy arrive in Vermont seeking opportunites in America. 1933 Twin City Italian Club is established with 36 members. 1941 Bove''s Family Restaurant opens December 7th, Pearl Harbor Day. 1942 Community Center 9today nown as the Sara Holbrook Center) opens on College Street. 1958 Burlington voters approve a referendum to apply for Urban Renewal monies from the federal government. 1960 First approval for Champlain Street Urban Renewal Project, a four square block area. 1963 The City receives final approval to begin demolition of the four square block area encompassing 27 acres. 1966 Demolition begins in May. 1968 Victoria Dutra and her family at the "Ponderosa" the last home standing. 1970s The federal government discontinued the Urban Renewal Program and demolition actions in Burlington ceased. 1983 Vermont Italian Cultural Association (VICA) is formed mostly with out-of-state transplants who coined the phrase "Little Italy Burlington" 2011 Interpretive signs recognize the neighborhood lost to Urban Renewal. This interpretive sign is one of a series of three signs interpreting the lives of over 150 families who once called this 4 square block area home until the late 1960s. We invite you to explore this old ethnic community and learn more about the daily lives of this predominately Italian neighborhood, proudly installed by the Vermont Italian Club. (The three sign locations are indicated in orange on map at left.)