Hearing about a Little Italy Neighborhood in Kansas City, some newer residents seem surprised. Little Italy is famous in New York, but locals also know that the Columbus Park area has historically been Kansas City's Italian neighborhood. Although ethnic lines are less distinctly drawn than in years past, the unique character of the neighborhood remains, making the area well worth a stop.
Unlike other Little Italys that bleed into other neighborhoods, Columbus Park has firm boundaries thanks to the Missouri River on one side and the Heart of America bridge on the other. As one of Kansas City's oldest immigrant neighborhoods, it has also had plenty of time to develop social infrastructure and culture.
The main business area of this neighborhood is found along 5th street, where there are many restaurants and ethnically themed grocery shops. Retailers also line 5th street. The other heart of the community is the Holy Rosary Catholic Church.
Built in 1895, the Church was the result of petitioning by the local Italian community for a church. Bells still toll on Sunday mornings and services have continued in the building for more than 100 years. Neighbors stroll into services and chatter, providing a great view for those who enjoy people watching, group dynamics, and societal studies.
Some good places to stop in the area to taste and experience other elements of the neighborhood include Garazzo's Ristorante, LaSala's Deli, and LaRocca's Grocery. Traditional foods and products are sold in all of these, and visitors to the area may also want to include a stop over to Vocci's Italian Products for a further fix.
The area is quite safe for walking, and families with children are welcomed. Many shops are closed Sunday mornings, but there are still many restaurants open throughout the weekend to accommodate visitors. Local residents are also more than willing to share stories about growing up in the area with those who inquire.