The Italian American Experience in San Jose – Where it all began

Italian American Experience, San Jose, italian culture, italian heritage, italian american, italian news, italian traditions

The Torino Hotel (Present day Henry’s High Life) located in Little Italy District

 

Little Italy San Jose is reviving the original Italian Settlement in San Jose which dates back to the 1880’s.
We thought we would elaborate on the businesses and families that settled in this historical section of Downtown San Jose.  
 
The two bordering areas that make up the general location of Little Italy San Jose are the River Street Area bordering the SAP center and San Pedro Square. The majority of immigrants of Italian descent in San Jose are from Sicily and Southern Italy that arrived from 1910 – 1940.  But the families and businesses that settled here were from Northern Italy (Mainly Liguria and Piemonte) and arrived after the influx of immigrants that originally came for the Gold Rush or came as bankers such as San Jose’s most famous Italian American A.P. Giannini.  
This area of San Jose is home to the first building in San Jose, the Peralta Adobe, which was built in 1797 as well as the home of the first Mayor of San Jose, Thomas Fallon.  The Fallon house later became the Italia Hotel in 1900. The hotel and restaurant, named the Italian Cellar, was run by Al Franzino and Al Visca.  West Saint John Street (Formerly San Augustine Street) was at one time home to 5 Italian Hotels that were either acting as boarding houses for Italian immigrants or would have high end restaurants such as the Fior D’Italia hotel, which was frequently visited by many of the elite businessmen of the area.
 
 A.P. Giannini’s parents ran the Swiss Hotel on this street, and it is also the location where he was born.  Of the 5 Hotels only two still remain the Fallon House (Italia Hotel) and The Torino Hotel (Present day Henry’s High Life) which is located in our Little Italy District.
 
No Italian settlement would be complete without a church built by the Italian Community and this area was no different. The construction of Chiesa Italiana della Sacra Famiglia (Holy Family Church) began in 1905. Designed by architect Alberto Porta as a small replica of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, the church at the corner of San Fernando and River Streets was developed by Fr. Filippo Magnacco, SJ, to minister to the needs of Italians, and dedicated on October 6, 1907. Fr. Joseph Cataldo, SJ, was the first pastor of the new church, and members of the Sisters of Holy Family began teaching catechism daily until 1972.
 
The church acted as the centerpoint of this Italian American community from 1905-1972 and Italian American businesses that surrounded this area of Downtown San Jose Included the Bank of Italy, Torino Hotel, Alameda Bakery, Fior D’Italia Hotel, Firato Ravioli, Ravenna Pasta Company, San Jose Pasta Company, Central Grocery, Notre Dame Market, El Dorado Bakery, Italia Hotel, and the New York Exchange hotel to name a few. Of course the real authenticity of the neighborhood were the working Italian families that built homes in this area of San Jose and built and created an Italian Community.  
 
Little Italy has worked tirelessly to restore the 20 remaining homes of Italian Immigrants and fill them with Italian Businesses or sold to Italian American Families.  The names of the families that originally settled in these homes and Businesses include the Beltramo, Apra, Vogliazzo, Pozzo, Vinessa, Murillo, Cappa, Aiassa, DeMattei, Ferrari, and Simondi families.  Bel Bacio Italian Café now occupies the Historic “Apra” house and the Little Italy Cultural center & Museum will be located in the 1910 “Beltramo House”

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