The Little Italy neighborhoods in Manhattan, The Bronx, Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, and San Francisco may be better known, but few offer a more intimate experience than the one on Cleveland’s Murray Hill.

Wall mural, Murray Hill, Little Italy, Cleveland

Wall mural, Murray Hill, Little Italy, Cleveland

Street scene, Murray Hill, Little Italy, Cleveland

Cleveland’s Little Italy was largely insulated from Rust Belt urban blight by its unique location.

Tucked between the University Hospitals complex, the sprawling Lakeview Cemetery, and the hill which crests above it, it’s a virtual urban island.

Holy Rosary Church, Murray Hill, Little Italy, Cleveland

It’s not surprising that many of the monuments in the adjacent cemetery were fashioned by Italian stonecutters over a century ago.

Mayfield Road, Murray Hill, Little Italy, Cleveland

This is a truly organic neighborhood built on a pedestrian scale.

In its heyday early in the last century it boasted a parish church, school, shops and restaurants all within blocks of each other and many of which still operate today.  Even the bocce ball court is still in use.

Many restaurants are located around the intersection of Mayfield Road and Murray Hill, but plenty are scattered among the residences to create the feel of a truly organic neighborhood.  Today it makes for a picturesque walkabout..

Nido Italia restaurant, Murray Hill, Little Italy, Cleveland

Many restaurants are located around the intersection of Mayfield Road and Murray Hill, but plenty are scattered among the residences to create the feel of a truly organic neighborhood. Today it makes for a picturesque walkabout.

Italia Apartments, Murray Hill, Little Italy, Cleveland

Anthony’s Restaurant, Murray Hill, Little Italy, Cleveland

Street scene, Murray Hill, Little Italy, Cleveland

 

Beginning in May and continuing through September nearly every restaurant features sidewalk dining, with the added bonus of a people-watching spectacle.

Local residents, visitors in from the suburbs, and a growing influx of professionals from the nearby hospitals all walking the sidewalks make for an entertaining meal.

 

 

 

La Dolce Vita Restaurant, Murray Hill, Little Italy, Cleveland

At La Dolce Vita, a personal favorite, Fellini’s movie of the same name seems to run perpetually, projected high on a dining room wall. On weekends, the crowd often spills out onto the patio in back.

Behind La Dolce Vita Restaurant, Murray Hill, Little Italy, Cleveland

Vintage home, Murray Hill, Little Italy, Cleveland

Murray Hill attracts visitors from all over the city, and with Cleveland’s other Italian immigrant neighborhoods now long gone has become a cultural touchstone for local Italian-Americans now five and six generations removed from the old country.

Il Bacio Restaurant, Murray Hill, Little Italy, Cleveland

It’s hard to eat a meal here that doesn’t have the flavor of authentic recipes handed down from generation to generation.

Fiori Gallery, Murray Hill, Little Italy, Cleveland

Walk off a hearty meal at least far enough down the block to have a gelato dessert or grab an evening smoke at the cigar shop.

Apartments, Murray Hill, Little Italy, Cleveland

Apartments, Murray Hill, Little Italy, Cleveland

This entire experience goes on steroids every August at the Feast of the Assumption, a Mardi-Gras style celebration of music, food, and culture. At other times of year there’s opera in the Italian Cultural Garden, and Italian film festival, and the obligatory Columbus Day parade.

In the evening the lighted restaurants, streetlamps, and strolling visitors give the place the feel of an Italian piazza on a Saturday night.

Street parking on weekends and during big events can be a challenge here, but a turn off Euclid onto Mayfield goes right past a large parking lot on the left by the railroad bridge.

More here on Cleveland’s Little Italy

Also check out my related posts:

Dallas’s Italian Grocery

The Italian-Argentine connection

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