Community Sites & Meeting Places

Community Sites & Meeting Places

See RELIGION Catholics
See INSTITUTIONS, Italian Government Offices

Casa Italiana Immigrant Statue

By far the most frequently used sites by Italians in Los Angeles for social and cultural events are Casa Italiana (in Chinatown) and the Istituto Italiano di Cultura (the Italian Cultural Institute, in Westwood). While the first tends to host banquets, Italian associationsí monthly meetings, St. Josephís Day Tables (See CELEBRATIONS, Folk Festivals), patron feast days, and Opera productions, the Westwood institute, the IIC (the Cultural office of the Italian Government abroad) promotes Italian (rather than Italian American) cultural activity. The Casa, built in 1972, is generally associated with the established Italian American community, while the Istituto, established by the Italian Government in its Westwood location in 1995, with a more contemporary Italy-centric cultural milieu. A generational shift seems to be underway with regarding to meeting places. In addition to these sites, many ìvirtual communitiesî have arisen in recent years, either as adjuncts to groups that meet in person (for example, clubs and associations), or as online chat groups, news, and blogs (e.g., I-Italy Online, creating what may be considered ìvirtual piazzasî that go well beyond the confines of a local community.

Casa Italiana, La Lupa

A Bit of History: The Scalabrini Order and the Italian Community. Missionaries of St. Charles (Carlo Borromeo, 1538-1584; Giovanni Battista Scalabrini, 1839-1905), known as the Scalabrini Fathers or Scalabrinians (an order, founded in 1887 to serve the needs of immigrants, and today continues to serve migrants and refugees), have provided leadership on many fronts within the Italian community, besides the strictly religious. Since 1972, they have administered St. Peterís Italian Church, focusing on social and cultural programs, as well as the pastoral. They managed líItalo-Americano for decades (See MEDIA, Publications, Newspapers),organized Italian classes, encouraged traditional patron saint day observances and other traditions. Under the energetic leadership of Father Donanzan, they were, in the 1970ís and 1980ís, one of the major unifying forces in the local Italian community. The Scalabrinians undertook the rebuilding of Casa Italiana, increased attendance at St. Peterís Italian Church (the only national parish in the diocese), and built Villa Scalabrini (the retirement center in Sun Valley; cf. monument to the Italian immigrant). The fundraising campaigns for these projects are remembered as rare occasions of Italians rallying behind a common cause.

Istituto Italiano di Cultura (Italian Cultural Institute)
1023 Hilgard Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90024
Tel: 310-443-3250
Fax: 310-443-3254

See INSTITUTIONS, Italian Government Offices

ChurchesóSt. Peterís Italian Catholic Church in downtown Los Angeles, and Mary Star of the Sea Church, San Pedroóare primary sites for religiously-related events(See RELIGION; CLUBS & ASSOCIATIONS, Religious Associations). St. Peterís celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2004, on which occasion it published the commemorative volume: St. Peterís Italian Church, Los Angeles, California 1904-2004. Its adjacent Casa Italiana banquet hall, also hosts Opera productions, meetings, dinner dances of various organizations, from the Sons of Italy and the Italian Lawyers Association, to the Federated Italo-Americans of S. California.

St. Peter's Italian Catholic Church:
Detail of altar, St. Peter (a "fisher of
men") in a boat

St. Peter's Church & Casa Italiana
1051 N. Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Tel: 323-225-8119
Fax: 323-225-0085

(See RELIGION, Italian Catholic, St. Peter's Church)

Mary Star of the Sea Church
870 8th St.
San Pedro, CA 90731
Tel: (310) 833-3541
Fax: (310) 833-9254

More community sites: Recently other centers of social and cultural activity have been gaining prominence. The Historic Italian Hall Foundation (El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument), has recently restored the Italian Hall (which was one of the social centers of the early Italian community), and continues to work on the project of creating an Italian American Museum in the heart of Los Angeles. In 2008, the Pueblo curated its first exhibition on the local on Italian American community (held in the Pico House, El Pueblo Plaza): Sunshine and Struggle: The Italian Experience in Los Angeles 1827 ñ 1927.

A bequest by George L. Graziadio, with funds from other local organizations,(e.g., Frank De Santis, former OSIA president, See CLUBS, ASSOCIATIONS & SOCIETIES), made possible the endowment of a Chair in Italian Studies at California State University, Long Beach. The Graziadio Center for Italian Studies organizes community events at the University ó a rare meeting of town and gown among Italians!

A few Italian organizations have their own meeting places which serve a variety of social and program needs: Orange County American Italian Renaissance Foundation, the Italian American Club of San Pedro, the Garibaldina Society.

The George L. Graziadio Center for Italian Studies
California State University, Long Beach 1250 Bellflower Blvd.
Long Beach, CA 90840-2406
Tel: (562) 985-4111
Fax: 562-985-2406

Historic Italian Hall
C/o Historic Italian Hall Foundation
(El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument)
125 Paseo de la Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Tel: 323-257-9400
Fax: 323-256-1383

A Bit of History: Italian Hall in the Heart of the Pueblo.
The official inauguration of the Historic Italian Hall (est. 1907) as the first Italian American Museum in Los Angeles was held during the summer of 2004. The Historic Italian Hall (curated by Mariann Gatto), and still undergoing repairs and restoration, is now part of the city-owned El Pueblo de Los Angeles in downtown Los Angeles near the art deco train station, Union Station, and next to Olvera Street, a prime tourist destination. See INTRODUCTIONS, An Historical Overview, Italians at El Pueblo. A DVD on the Italian Hall was made on the occasion of the dedication of Mille Grazie Wall.

Historic Italian Hall in El Pueblo

Italian American Club (photo)
1903 S. Cabrillo Ave. (at 19th)
San Pedro, CA
Tel: (310) 831-3183

M.B. Garibaldina Society
4533 N. Figueroa
Los Angeles, CA
Tel: (818) 249-9363 or (323) 223-5005

Open to those of Italian descent or spouses thereof. Founded in 1877, it is the oldest Italian American organization in Los Angeles. It is largely social club which focuses on dinner-dances, New Yearís celebration, bocce tournaments, and fundraisers. See CLUBS AND ASSOCIATIONS/p>

Orange County American Italian Renaissance Foundation
Mr. Tom Rizzo, President
1324 W. Rickey Lane
Anaheim, 92802
E mail:

Piazza, caffË, osteria: Informal meeting places

See FOLKLIFE Games & Sports; SENIORS

The lack of informal gathering places, typical of traditional Italian life: the town square (piazza), the local caffË or bar(where one drinks coffee primarily), or l'osteria (a typical male locale where one drank wine and played card games), is lamented by many Italians. Some informal socialization of this sort occurs in club halls (Italian American Club in San Pedro, or at the Garibaldina), retirement homes (Villa Scalabrini, Anderson Memorial Senior Center), and at markets, delis and cafËs around the Southland (e.g., AI Market, San Pedro on a Saturday morning, See FOOD & RESTAURANTS, Markets). Before such programs became widely-accessible throush cable networks, soccer games (via satellite) could be viewed, often during non-business hours, at places such as CaffË Roma in Beverly Hills, Orsini's restaurant in W. Los Angeles, Scooter's Pizza in Alhambra, Isidore's Barber Shop in San Pedro. Canetti's instead was a favorite meeting place for Italian fishermen in San Pedro (See INTRODUCTIONS, Historical Overview, San Pedro). But such places of informal socialization have come and gone. Further, vast distances, the energy crisis, and a radically changed pace of life, inhibits social spontaneity and informality to a large degree. Events and gatherings must be scheduled and traffic-weary Angelenos, Italian and not, find distances increasingly daunting. Signs are emerging however, that Italians may be creating such informal gathering places for themselves: e.g., Mini-Italian. See CHILDREN