Larimer Avenue

From the paesi d’Italia to the village of Larimer: A Study of Pittsburgh’s Forgotten Little Italy, 1920-1950

In the wee hours of the morning on August 14, 1945, the residents of Larimer, anxiously awaiting the Japanese surrender, dashed outside their houses when the surrender finally became official and congregated along Larimer Avenue. Jean Creo, a former resident, vividly remembers the entire neighborhood celebrated the end of World War Two together on Larimer Avenue.  Out of nowhere Nick Isuash and his band, the local musicians, came marching down the avenue._ This one event reveals how Pittsburgh’s Little Italy was a united Italian village brought together by their beloved Larimer Avenue.  They didn’t celebrate in the sanctuary of their own homes or among close neighbors, instead they celebrated in the one locale which brought this “village” together.  Whether it was a joyous occasion or a funeral procession, Pittsburgh’s largest Italian community always focused its actions and attention around Larimer Avenue.  This via  was the piazza of a neighborhood that in many ways resembled an Italian village. Only fifty years earlier, this immigrant Italian community was just beginning to develop, and through this one event the transformation from an immigrant to an ethnic community is evident because the “village” celebrated an American victory.  Italians embraced their new country and at the same time, they continued to reside among fellow compatriots from the Old World.

Compared to other Little Italies around the country, Larimer never gained a national reputation to earn a comprehensive analysis.  This lack of study has diminshed the awareness of Pittsburgh’s largest Italian community.  However, there does exist a few local studies that cover only certain aspects of Larimer. For example, over the years several University of Pittsburgh graduate students conducted research about the area.  The only published book truly focusing on Larimer, titled Raised in Paradise: A Saga of Little Italy by Anthony Halterlein, only covered the first two decades of the twentieth century.

First settled by Italians in the 1890s, Larimer was a vital Italian neighborhood between 1920 and1950, when it finally began to decline. Once, firmly established, Little Italy’s settlers and their offspring strived to preserve Italian culture and heritage in Pittsburgh. Italians continued to employ Old World skills such as stonecutting and cobbling.  They banded together and formed mutual aid societies to support themselves and maintain a connection with their past.  Le feste or Italian saints’ days created an aura reminiscent of village life in Italy. And just like the picturesque medieval town in the Tuscan countryside, a bell tower and church towered above this close knit, urban Italian paese or village in Pittsburgh.  This recreation of a village served as a way for Italians to ease the assimilation process into American society, while continuing to preserve their heritage in a foreign country.

Large urban Italian communities throughout the country are relatively similiar in their histories and social structure.  Larimer resembles other major Italian neighborhoods in New York and Chicago.  Much literature covering Little Italies note that most Italian neighborhoods were established by affluent Northern Italians. This holds true for Larimer.  Humbert Nelli, who wrote The Italians in Chicago, mentions how Northeners and later Southerners moved away from the city core to the periphery._  Again this holds true for Larimer because most of the Italians migrated from downtown Pittsburgh and the lower Hill District.  According to Anthony LaRuffa’s research about Monte Carmelo, the in-migration of other Italians from different areas also occurred in the Bronx.  Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the Bronx served as the focal point of italianita’, the sense of being Italian, for the community as did Our Lady Help of Christians in Larimer._  The presence of mutual aid societies and businesses also helped maintain Italian spirit in every Italian neighborhood. However, the only item which can distinguish Larimer is the village skyline. Larimer possessed both a campanile or belltower and a church, which represent the two symbols of every Italian village.  They may only be two simple structures, but for villagers from the Alps to the island of Sicily they come to signify “home.”

Development 1890’s-1920

From 1880 to 1924 over 5 million Italians arrived in the United States for various reasons.  Many intended to work for only a few months or years and immediately return to Italy, while others came to permanently escape poverty and reep the benefits of the New World. Fifteen thousand Italians settled in Pittsburgh and another fifteen thousand scattered throughout Allegheny County  Their arrival coincided with the arrival of other immigrants from Eastern Europe during the same period.    Both groups, however, did immigrate according to a series of push and pull factors.  The push factors that cause Italian emigration stemmed from three problems. Agricultural difficulties associated with natural disasters such as drought and poor harvests led many to leave the agricultural life behind. Southern Italy was still dominated by a feudalistic system where the peasants or contadini worked on land owned by a lord. Everyday peasants walked from their villages to their own individual plots of land in the countryside. This situation signified the fact that peasants could not control their lives, income, or even their own destiny.  They were at the mercy of an oppressive medieval way of life.  Population growth was another push factor for emigration.  Italy is only two-thirds the size of California and ,therefore, space is limited. In order to gain property and more money to feed their children, many families opted for the long journey to the New World.

The pull factors that caused immigration to the United States were associated with the industrialization of the country.  The rise of industry led to the demand for unskilled laborers to work in the mills, mines, and factories.  Countless others were needed to build roadways, railroads, and buildings in the ever-expanding American cities.  Chain migration played another role in attracting Italian immigrants.  A job recruiter would travel through the rural areas hiring peasants to work in the United States. Over a period of time, many family members and residents of the same village would also immigrate.  They wrote back home to encourage family members and friends to follow.

Italians arrived in Pittsburgh because of those same reasons.  As they did in other American cities, Italians settled in several areas of Pittsburgh.  Besides Larimer, Italians resided in the Hill District, Bloomfield, the Strip District and even the North Side.  In their book on blacks, Italians, and Poles,  John Bodnar, Roger Simon, and Michael P. Weber write that “The great majority of the city’s Italians and their children, however, crowded into three Italian districts, the Lower Hill, Bloomfield, and the East Liberty-Larimer Avenue area.”_  According to the 1920 U.S. census, there were five wards that contained significant numbers of Italian-born residents. Both ward three (Hill District) and two (Strip District) had well over one thousand foreign-born residents.  Homewood-Brushton, ward thirteen, also housed over a thousand foreign-born Italians.  Homewood was not considered an Italian colony because Italians accounted for only a small fraction compared to the total population.  Ward eight, Bloomfield, numbered only nine hundred foreign-born residents.  The largest Italian neighborhood in 1920 was ward twelve, Larimer.  Pittsburgh’s Little Italy housed over 2,755 foreign-born residents.  When the children of these foreign-born residents are added, the number of Italians increases.  Therefore, including children and others born in the United States, the total population of Larimer in 1920 was 6,061._  (See TABLE 1 on page 31)

Larimer is a neighborhood within East Liberty, which lies six miles east of downtown Pittsburgh.  Only a mile from the Allegheny River, the neighborhood, sits atop a plateau that resembles a peninsula jutting out into the sea.  The topography of the area creates this scene because two valleys provide natural boundaries.  The valleys divide Larimer from Highland Park on the northwest and Lincoln-Lemington on the northeast.  Larimer is connected to these communities by way of three bridges: the Larimer Avenue Bridge, Meadow Street Bridge, and the Lincoln Avenue Bridge.  Lincoln-Lemington and Homewood, a neighborhood to the east, were both middle class neighborhoods with a German and Irish population.  Highland Park was dominated by upper middle class Anglo-Saxon Protestants and Scottish Presbyterians. To the south, a railroad track separates Larimer from another upper middle class neighborhood, Shadyside.  In view of these boundaries, they contributed to the coherence of the area. Anthony “Herb” Amen, a co-founder of the Larimer Avenue Social Club, describes the neighborhood best when he writes, “From the rooftop of Sebastian’s gas station to the pinnacle of the no longer existing White Tower restaurant, once existed a beautiful close-knit Italian village.” _ (See MAPS on pg 32 & 33)

Below the Meadow Street Bridge, a dirt road was named Chianti Way because of its Italian residents.  This street was the main thoroughfare for the community called Basso La Vallone, or down in the hollow.  Steps from Larimer Avenue led down to this small community of twenty-nine wooden structures._  In some ways, it was a rural community because residents cultivated vegetables and fruits and even raised livestock.  A few Italians developed vineyards along the hills below Larimer, hence the name Chianti for the area.  (See PHOTO on pg.34)

Long before Italians settled the area, William Larimer, for whom the area was named, called it home.  Larimer, a man of French-Scottish descent, owned a house and a Conestoga wagon business for hauling goods between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia during the 1830’s.  Originally, Larimer Avenue was named Larimer Lane.  Located near Larimer Lane, a horse race track attracted spectators from the city.  By the 1850’s, William Larimer and the race track had departed from the area.  Established in 1851, the new railroad and station in East Liberty lured large numbers of German immigrants. They formed Saints’ Peter and Paul Church and School in 1859 along Larimer Avenue.  A significant number of African-Americans also settled in Larimer along Frankstown and Lincoln Avenues._

Italians began to arrive in the early 1890’s from other parts of the city.  These first Italians came from downtown, along Virgin Alley and Strawberry Way, and from Webster Avenue in the Hill District.  Larimer’s new residents consisted mostly of skilled workmen, clerks, and merchants who largely hailed from Northern Italy.  A growing demand for an Italian Catholic church became apparent by 1894 when the community asked for Bishop Phelan’s permission to establish a parish.  He refused to grant them permission.  In the meantime, a group of Italian Franciscans at St. Peter the Apostle, which was located in the Hill District, aided the Italians in conducting the first Italian mass in Larimer.  Fr. Louis Foppiano gave the mass at St. Joseph’s Hall inside SS. Peter and Paul’s school in February of 1895. With the help of Fr. Sixtus Lagorio, the residents organized a petition and submitted it to Bishop Phelan.  They were finally granted permission, and on April 12, 1896 a committee was formed to finance the construction of a building.  Two years later, Our Lady, Help of Christians was dedicated on April 17, 1898 on Meadow Street in the heart of Larimer._  It was the first Italian Catholic Church in Pittsburgh._   The parishioners chose Meadow Street because it and Larimer Avenue were the most important thouroughfares in Larimer.  The intersection of these two streets represented the heart of the community. The establishment of Our Lady, Help of Christians on Meadow Street solidified the Italian presence in the neighborhood and served as a catalyst for further growth.

Seven years later, in 1905, the City of Pittsburgh constructed a water treatment facility across the Allegheny River from Larimer.  Its construction attracted large numbers of Italians to move into the area.  Bodnar, Simon and Weber write, “Other Italians, many of them independent artisans or truck farmers, settled even further out of the city in the 11th and 12th wards, where land was abundant. They were followed in 1905 by a group of construction laborers employed by the city to build its new filtration plant. This East Liberty community eventually became the largest Italian settlement in the city.”_

Ella Burns Meyer, who wrote about Italians in Pittburgh, discussed Larimer’s size and wrote, “In possessing both a large business district and a still larger residence district, almost entirely Italian, the neighborhood is more distinctly an Italian colony than any other settlement in the city.  It is a unit in itself.” _   Unlike Pittsburgh’s other Italian neighborhoods, Larimer contained a diverse Italian population, the largest Italian business district, the highest percent of Italians in one area, and a substantial number of home owners.   She also examined the physical differences such as housing and property lots between Larimer and Bloomfield._  Housing in Bloomfield was cramped because there were no front yards or even front porches. Also, most houses were butted up against each other.  While in Larimer, front yards and porches abounded in the area.  The housing arrangement sort of resembled a suburban community, not a city neighborhood.  When one thinks of an urban Italian community, one imagines a neighborhood in New York or Chicago, where the majority of residents live in tenements.  Larimer shatters this Italian neighborhood stereotype.

A large number of Italians owned homes in Larimer. According to the 1900 census, fifty-six percent owned their own homes.  These data prove that a professional class existed at the turn of the century.  Over the course of the next twenty years with the arrival of new immigrants this percent went down. Both the 1910 and 1920 census showed that the percent of home owners hovered around thirty percent.  Several decades later Italians achieved home ownership because as Simon, Bodnar, and Weber reported, “…Italians succeeded by 1940. Nearly 50 percent owned their own home in the Italian sections of Bloomfield and East Liberty.”_  The number of home owners grew as immigrants and their relatives moved up the socioeconomic ladder by earning money both inside and outside of the neighborhood.       (See TABLE 2 on pg.31)

The Village from 1920 to 1950

The zenith of most ethnic communities in American cities occurred roughly from the turn of the century to the end of the Second World War. Larimer’s heyday was from 1920 to the early 1950’s.  The community became solidified and more ethnic by the 1920’s. Immigration waned because of the Emergency Quota Act of 1921 and the John Reed Act of 1924. Large numbers of Italians ceased to arrive in Larimer, but they still continued to trickle in over the course of the community’s history.  Southern Italians made up the largest contingency from one region in Italy, specifically Naples and Calabria.  Northern Italians were in the minority, but they still influenced the neighborhood because of their wealth.  The village of Larimer resonated with the aspirations of Italians who were determined to create a new life in the New World.  Larimer became their village away from paese in Italy.  They would build a community, which would resemble in numerous ways the country they left behind.


The most highly valued aspect of any Italian’s life is work. Italians immigrated to the United States because of the lack of solid employment in their homeland.  The majority of Italian immigrants were labeled unskilled laborers by the United States government, but before emigrating from Italy, many of these unskilled laborers had already learned a specific trade .  An Italian proverb states: Impara l’arte e mettila da parte.  This literally means, “learn a trade and put it aside.”  When many immigrants arrived in America, they were able to apply certain skills they had learned.  The Southern peasants applied their skills and became bricklayers, stonecutters, and barbers.  Many Northern Italians in Larimer also utilized their Old World skills in such trades as construction and tile setting.  Simon, Bodnar and Weber noticed the continuation of traditional crafts by writing, “An early historian of Pittsubugh’s Italians, Salvatore Migliore, noticed in a 1928 study that ‘a good percentage  of the peasants knew some kind of trade.’ He estimated at least one-third were stonecutters, mechanics, mariners, masons, barbers, seamstresses and shoemakers. Italians were frequently able to implement this Old World familiarity with skills in the ‘steel city.’”_  They also specifically examined East Liberty’s Italians: “Italian-born workers, particularly those living in the East Liberty section of the city, also clustered in four other industrial industrial classifications.  Approximately one-fourth of all Italian workers held jobs in construction, apparel, commerce, or transportation by 1900.” _  Other Italians in East Liberty found employment in steel mills where they dominated carpentry, repair, and rail shops.  Construction gangs of Italians worked  for the Equitable Gas Company. Since the Pennsylvania Railroad had a train station in East Liberty, many Italians worked for the railroad._ (See TABLE 3 on pg.31)

Day-laborers mostly consisted of people employed in such positions as landscaping or construction .  Many Italians in East Liberty became landscapers.   Armand Castelli’s father and uncles started a family landscaping business in the 1920’s and worked in areas such as Highland Park and Shadyside.  Mr. Castelli discusses their ingenuity: “When they came over, they didn’t know the difference between an evergreen and a shade tree. But as they went along they used their ideas and know how.  They could speak the language, they learned to speak the language, but they could see they had a sense of understanding about planting this plant here, buying this bush.” _  This example shows how Italians employed whatever skills they possessed to earn a living.

East Liberty was described as the mecca of Italian artisans.  Stone cutters, marble setters, cabinet makers, and bricklayers all used theirs skills in Pittsburgh.  The vast majority of these artisans worked for Italian owned businesses.  Italian contractors were so numerous that according to a 1928 tally, there were thirty-eight building contractors, fourteen cement contractors, twenty-two concrete construction contractors, and six marble-cutting businesses in East Liberty._  Several examples of construction contractors are Massaro, Graziano, Navarro, Zambrano, Ionadi, and Dozzi.  Marble cutters included Modena, Fornaser, Battista, and Rampa. These companies not only provided jobs for fellow countrymen, but also contributed to the community. One such company, Navarro Construction, helped build Our Lady, Help of Christians School and provided free labor.  The church, however, did have to cover the cost of materials.  This one example shows how such companies donated their time and energy to improve their community._ Other skilled workers such as barbers, cobblers, and tailors added variety to the commercial district.  Unlike the construction companies, these businesses were located along Larimer Avenue.  The 1950 Pittsburgh City Directory listed seven barbers shops, two beauty salons, four cleaners, and two cobblers on Larimer Avenue.

Businesses on the Avenue

White collar workers owned many stores and businesses along the Avenue, which gave the area its Italian atmosphere.  They sold goods and services specifically for Italians.  The most important element of the Italian diet is bread.  A number of bakeries served the community over the course of its history.  In Larimer, there existed such bakeries as Stagno, Lutz, Rimini, Sabatasso, Pirollo, Gigante, Castellano, and Gunzel’s.  One bakery in particular stood out along the Avenue.  That bakery was the Italian Pastry.  Owned by Ralph Moio, everyone went there to satisfy their sweet tooth.  What made the pastries so desirable was the fact that they were based on Old World recipes.  The cannoli, pastaciotti, and lemon ice mirrored those in Italy.

Italian grocery stores also provided Old World foods.  They enabled Italians to continue their traditional foodways.  They sold olive oil, pasta, cheeses, meats not readily available at regular stores.  Not only did they import goods, but they also made them on site.  The array of grocery stores included Bigante’s, Gigante’s, Pompa’s, DeSena’s, Costa’s,  two Labriolas, and Nick’s.  The two Labriola stores were owned by cousins.  Several meat markets, DeLeca’s, Fiore’s, and Grasso’s, made fresh Italian sausage and sold a variety of meats.  During the holidays, these stores would overflow with food and people.   When one walked down Larimer Avenue at Christmas time, every store had crates of baccala, calamare, and smeltz along the sidewalks.  Angie Shiring, a former resident recalls that the smell of fish would permeate the whole avenue._ It was reminiscent of the Old Country’s fresh air markets in the piazza. This time, however, the piazza was Larimer Avenue.

Before the Italian restaurant craze hit America,  Larimer was the only place to go for real Italian cuisine in Pittsburgh.  Owned by the DelPizzo family, the Meadow Street Grill was the most famous Italian restaurant in Larimer. Known throughout the city, many residents remember that wealthy people from Squirrel Hill and Shadyside frequently ate at the Meadow Street Grille on weekends.  In fact, many prominent politicians such as Mayor David Lawrence would stop in.  Turp’s Pizza Shop made Old World-style pizza.  This one restaurant for a time was the only place one could get pizza in the entire city of Pittsburgh. Amadeo Brancati, a former resident, remembers that Turp’s even delivered their pizza._  Al Vento, owner of Vento’s Pizza presently in East Liberty along Highland Avenue, started his business on Auburn Street. Another prominent restaurant along the avenue was Kreur’s Cafe.  The owner was German and the cafe’s specialties were fish sandwiches and homemade beer._  Everybody mentions how a twenty-five cent fish sandwich and a glass of beer was a Friday night treat._  Besides these three, numerous other eateries existed such as the Red Eagle Club, Ardolino’s Cafe, the Larimer Cafe and Dutch Sander’s Cafe. There were even two fast food restaurants  along Larimer Avenue, White Tower Hamburgers and the Original Hot Dog shop, though no relation to the one in Oakland.

Other businesses served the community as well.  Two hardware stores, Larimer Hardware and Ruffing’s Hardware, helped support the upkeep of local households.  Allen’s Five and Dime, Sadie Kaboshanick Dry Goods, and Arro Furniture represented the community’s variety of shopping destinations.

Larimer Avenue’s stores brought the entire community together.  Again, the avenue served as the uniting factor.  Anthonly Halterlein writes about the avenue’s atmosphere during the first part of the twentieth century, “Shopping was an experience of pleasure.  Acquaintances between customers and merchants were personal and friendly.” _  During the Great Depression, the relationship between owner and customer became solidified.  Armand Castelli and Amadeo Brancati, two men who experienced the Great Depression, remember how their parents would buy groceries by using a credit system._ The grocery store would record a family’s purchase in a “black book.”  When a family had enough money, they would pay so much at a time.  Both parties were able to keep track.  This system represented the cooperation between the community and businesses, in order to survive the difficulties brought on by the Great Depression. Jean Creo mentioned that the store owners would give her family free cakes and pastries._ Giving to others was a top priority in Larimer.  The sense of being Italian greatly enhanced the need to look after one another.  Everyone was a compaesano, a fellow compatriot.  Plus, the customers and owners knew one another.  When you walked into a store, the owners would know your name and family.  Shopping along Larimer Avenue signified a warm, personal experience because of the close relationship between the community and businesses.

Larimer was primarily a residential neighborhood of East Liberty.  East Liberty proper centered along Penn Avenue, the main thoroughfare for the entire eastern section of Pittsburgh.  Only downtown Pittsburgh surpassed this commercial district in terms of size and number of businesses.  Several blocks away from Penn Avenue was Larimer Avenue.  For the Italian community, East Liberty was only an area to shop if it wasn’t available along Larimer Avenue. East Liberty served as the recreational spot for Italians.  There were two rolling skating rinks, five bowling alleys, and countless movie theaters in East Liberty.  Italians had the best of both worlds, they could easily shop for Italians goods along Larimer Avenue or walk up street to East Liberty to catch a movie at the Regent Theater or shop at Sears for clothes.  Again, the Larimer community benefited because of its location.

Like the grocers, the doctors and other professional people helped the community survive.  Many Italian doctors carried on their practices in Larimer.  Doctors Ignelsi, Coscia, Bianco, Vecchio, Alvino, Abbate, and Monaco, the neighborhood dentist, all healed and cared for the sick.  Dr. Alvino founded his own hospital, a three story building, along Paulson Avenue. Belvedere Hospital specifically served the Italian community. During the Great Depression, many doctors provided service, even though, most families couldn’t afford it.  Armand Castelli said that Dr. Bianco would allow his father to pay him over time until the debt was paid.

These doctors kept close ties to their patients because of their Italian heritage. American society during the 30’s and 40’s simply refused to allow Italian doctors into the mainstream. Therefore, they decided to help the people who most needed their services.   Again, italianita’, the sense of being Italian, united all paesani without regard to social, economic, or regional backgrounds.

Frank Conte cured the sick just like the doctors.  He owned the local pharmacy along Larimer Avenue.  Many folks refer to his drug store as the “Mayo Clinic.” No matter what you ailed from, he always had the cure.

Unfortunately, neither Frank Conte nor the local doctors could cure and heal everyone.  When the time came for families to bury their dead, the DeRosa and Febbraro funeral homes both handled the final farewell.  Death for Italians symbolizes not only a time to remember the life of a loved one, but to openly express one’s grief.  A community gathering best describes the atmosphere surrounding one’s death.  To respect the solemn gathering, the parades during le feste or Saints’ days, would silently march pass the funeral home.  Herb Amen, who worked at the DeRosa funeral home, recalls visitations to the funeral home would last several days.  Michael DeRosa, the owner and funeral director, helped many families by reducing the cost. His generosity created a loyal clientele because the majority of Italians would hire his services.  Giving back to the community was not uncommon for the DeRosa family. Michael’s father served as ward chairman during the Great Depression. His efforts ensured the availability of food for many needy families.  Loyalty and compassion toward your fellow man best describe the characteristics held dear to the hearts of Larimer Avenue Italians.

Mutual Aid Societies

Campanilismo refers to the Italian sense of regionalism.  This word derives from   campanile, which means “bell tower” in Italian. Present in every Italian village, the bell tower helps villagers identify with their hometown since it dominates the village skyline. Campanilism is defined as “a view of the world that included reluctance to extend social, cultural, and economic contacts beyond points from which the parish or village bell could still be heard.”_ Italians arrived in Larimer from an array of regions and villages  throughout the peninsula. Northerners hailed from the mountains and plains of Piedmont, Lombardy, and Veneto. While Southerners emigrated from the sun drenched villages of Sicily, Calabria, Campania, Latium, and Abbruzzo. (See Map of Italy on pg.35)  Many Larimer Italians traced their heritage back to several specific villages in Southern Italy.  Alvito, southeast of Rome, and Spigno-Saturnia, near Naples, both represent two such villages.  The immigrants and their descendants from these villages continued to maintain close ties by establishing beneficial societies in their new village.  Clannish relationships survived the voyage to the new world, thus revealing a continuity between the old and new village.

Northern and Southern Italians maintained good relations even though the groups spoke different dialects, cuisine, and culture. It must be noted that many Northerners moved across the Larimer Avenue bridge. Upward economic mobility allowed  Northerners to relocate because many of them owned businesses and were skilled artisans. Even though this area was not within Larimer proper, many Italians still considered it apart of the neighborhood because Larimer Avenue continued to extend beyond the bridge for another quarter of a mile. The notion of being apart of Larimer Avenue without regard to residency, region, or class united all villagers.

Created to preserve Old World identities, mutual aid societies and social organizations brought many Italians together including some from the same region or village.  Over twenty-five fraternal organizations existed. More than just serving as an outlet for social recreation, the larger purpose behind these organizations focused on providing financial assistance to members.  Since they gave sick and death benefits to members and their families, they resembled an insurance company. Examination of two particular groups creates an understanding of beneficial societies in Larimer.  According to Everett Alderman, who wrote a master’s thesis at the University of Pittsburgh in 1932 about fraternal organizations in Larimer, the Caserta, Trento, and Trieste was the most largest and influential group of any local organization he studied._  The name of this group derived from three towns in Northern Italy, which were under Austrian control until the end of World War One.  The organization commemorated the return of these irredential lands to la patria or the homeland. Armand Castelli’s father belonged to this particular club._ The lodge required members to pay $1.40 in monthly fees.  The money gained from monthly dues ensured the availability of sick and death benefits.  An ill member received eight dollars a week plus the services of a doctor.   Upon a member’s death, the family received four hundred dollars. If the member’s wife died, the lodge paid the family two hundred dollars. Other beneficial societies also covered the family’s children.

While this club admitted all foreign and American-born Italians, eighteen years and older, other clubs restricted their membership to a specific region or village.  One such organization, the Spigno-Saturnia Ital-American Benefcial Society, only admitted new members on the basis of either being born in this village or claiming direct descedancy._  Each member paid monthly dues in return for sick and death benefits for himself and his family. The society even covered the costs for a carriage and flowers. The descendants of Spigno-Saturnia continue to maintain strong clannish ties to this day._  Other clubs adhering to village ancestry included Maierato Italo-American Citizen Club, Santa Maria Del Castello, Beneficial Society of Northern Italy, and the Societa Santa Maria Di Alvito Valla di Cominio or commonly referred to as the Alvito Club.  The social aspect of these organizations created a fraternal spirit among the membership.  This fraternal spirit derived from the pride of being Italian.  Interacting with fellow compatriots and conducting meetings in the Italian language again, created a sense of continuity.

Many society or lodge names originated from notable historic Italian personalities such as King Victor Emanuel II, Christopher Columbus, Armando Dias, an Italian general of the First World War, and Sgt. Basilone, the Italian American Congressional Medal of Honor awardee of the Second World War.  The Sons of Columbus, of course, honored the discoverer of America by using his name.  Italians felt great pride in knowing that a fellow countrymen discovered the New World.  They viewed Columbus as the first Italian immigrant to America. The Sons of Columbus served as a beneficial society, but spirited the cause to educate everyone about Italian history and in particular Columbus’ achievement.  Their efforts to commemorate his discovery resulted in the creation of Columbus monument in Schenley Park. Money raised by the club helped cover the expenses. Three Sons of Columbus lodges served the Larimer neighborhood, two for men and one for women.  Every Sons of Columbus lodge was associated with the Sons of Columbus of America, Inc.  Three-fifteen Larimer Avenue housed the national headquarters of the Sons of Columbus.  This prominent Italian fraternal organization called Larimer its home.

Another society originated from Larimer.  Founded in 1929 over a dispute with the Sons of Italy, the Italian Sons and Daughters of America held their first meeting at the Kingsley Settlement House on Larimer Avenue.  The Pittsburgh members of the Sons of Italy felt discontent toward the financial policies, especially officers’ salaries, with the main branch in Philadelphia._  To prevent bloated salaries, the ISDA incorporated a fixed salary into the by-laws.  The two other distinguishing factors dealt with membership.  The Sons of Italy prohibited members from belonging to other clubs, while the ISDA freely allowed members to associated with any organization. The most contrasting issue between the two concerned the admittance of women.  The Sons of Italy organized lodges separately for both men and women.   ISDA lodges admitted both men and women, which was a policy quite advanced for its time. Jean Creo’s parents held membership in the Progressive Lodge of the ISDA._  She remembers her parents would attend ISDA meetings and functions at the Sons of Columbus Hall.  Some meetings even occurred at her house.  Her father also organized an ISDA bowling league.  The ISDA represented an organization where men and women could socialize together, which was uncommon among Italian clubs.  The majority of fraternal societies prohibited women from entering clubs and attending meetings. Herb Amen recalls how women would send their kids to the clubs to get their fathers to come home for dinner. _

The creation of the ISDA did not effect the operations of the two Sons of Italy lodges in Larimer.   These two lodges, one male and one female, continued to serve as an organization for Italians to maintain their heritage through social engagement.  The male lodge’s name honored the King of Italy, Vittorio Emanule II. Here is another example how Italians strived to remember la patria.

In 1932, the Sons of Columbus, Sons of Italy, and the Italian Sons and Daughters of America helped influence the Pittsburgh Public Schools to add Italian as one of the languages offered in evening classes at district high schools such as Westinghouse in Homewood and Peabody in East Liberty. The people that spirited this cause hoped Italian language classes would teach youth about their ancestral tongue, and assist children in communicating with parents who had difficulties with English. _

Many of these fraternal societies conducted their meetings at the Kingsley Settlement House, located at the intersection of Auburn Street and Larimer Avenue.  Kingsley Association, a privately funded organization, ran the building and events offered at the settlement house.  Founded in1893 during the Social Reform era, the Kingsley House originally supported the immigrants in the Hill District. It relocated to Larimer in 1919 and constructed a permanent facility in 1923.  Its function focused on providing a safe haven for children to both learn and play.  The employees of the Kingsley House did not reside in Larimer, nor were they Italian. The building contained a gym, swimming pool, and numerous classrooms.  A small field and playground adjoined the structure.  Many residents fondly remember attending classes, activities, and dances.  Angie Shiring learned how to write and work on a newspaper as a member of the Kingsley House’s newspaper club._  Jean Creo recalls attending dances and learning how to sew at the Kingsley House._  Adults also frequented the Kingsley House.  Women participated in the sewing and craft classes.  They also belonged to the Mother’s Club and Grandma’s Club. English language and citizenship classes encouraged Americanization among immigrants. During the summer, the Kingsley House ran a summer camp, the Lillian Taylor Fresh Air Farm in Valencia, Butler County.  Larimer children ,with their mothers, stayed at the camp for a two week rural vacation away from their urban village.  The settlement house influenced many young people to escape street life and become productive citizens. Cookie Rizzo, a former resident, mentioned how the Kingsley House saved many young men from going down the wrong road._  The Kingsley House’s role in Larimer allowed Italians both to maintain Old World traditions by opening its doors to Italian fraternal societies and at the same time teaching them how to assimilate into American society.


Played by many organizations, Italian games symbolized another ongoing Old World tradition in America.  Bocce, or bowls as it is defined in English, resembles lawn bowling.  In most cases, the court does not consist of grass, but of gravel or sand.  Early immigrants used the back alleyways of Larimer before they constructed courts._  The Sons of Columbus had the best known bocce court in Larimer.  First-generation Italians after they retired spent many of their days playing bocce and smoking Italian cigars at the Sons of Columbus.  Another Italian game, morra,  was more prevalent on the streets than in the clubs. Morra is a number guessing game between two people using their hands. The goal is to guess what the total number of fingers will be.  Loud matches unfolded along Larimer Avenue not out of anger, but because Italians put so much emotion into whatever they were doing.

American sports such as baseball, football, and boxing attracted second generation Italians.  These new world sports united the community quite often.  Baseball and football teams, varying in age, lured many spectators and participants. Crowds would gather at Larimer playground or wherever the game was being held just to catch a piece of the action.  Boxing also aroused much fanfare and matches took place at the Flamingo Roller Palace on Tuesday nights.  The community’s influence on sports extended beyond its boundaries. Cowboy DeLuca, a prominent local boxer in the late 1920’s, managed world heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano for a short period of time. Cowboy DeLuca also owned a bowling alley in East Liberty.  His establishment represented one of five bowling alleys in the area.  Sports united first and second-generation Italians and created camaraderie among them.

The Church

Fraternal societies and sports preserved cultural traditions, while religion sustained Italian spiritual values.  Our Lady, Help of Christians ensured this by being the community’s largest house of worship.  Founded in 1898 solely to serve the Italian community, this church solidified the Italian presence in Larimer. Franciscans operated the church, parochial school, monastery and convent.  The Franciscans desired to reach out to residents, and many recall hearing Father Joachim’s beads dangling as he walked down Meadow Street to meet with young men along the avenue._  Sunday, of all the other days, was the most special one for Italians.  Attending mass brought families and friends together for worship at Our Lady.  Filled to capacity, Italians adhered to their Catholic faith.  After mass, families returned home for Sunday dinner. While the women cooked, men attended fraternal society or club meetings. Afterwards, the men would visit each others’ families.  When everyone left, the family would celebrate the most important meal of the week for every Italian family. Words could not begin to describe the tastes, the smells, and the enjoyment of being with la famiglia or the family.  Sunday not only signified a day of rest, but for Italians it reaffirmed their faith, heritage, and family.

The most important aspects of the Roman Catholic faith involve the sacraments.  Prescribed by the Catholic Church, all Catholics received baptism, first holy communion, confirmation, and marriage. They were also considered rites of passage through life.  One would gain their social status within the community by completing each sacrament. Larimer Italians gathered at Our Lady, Help of Christians to witness each passing.  In essence, the sacraments became a village gathering.  Many photographs show the entire church crowded with family and friends witnessing their children being baptized or receiving first holy communion.  Marriage truly received the most attention of any sacrament. During the early 20th century, the entire community would witness couples going to and from the church by horse and carriage.  The same held true for the last rite of passage, death.  Before being interned at Mount Carmel cemetery in Penn Hills, a suburb bordering the city of Pittsburgh near Larimer, the deceased would travel down Larimer Avenue and many would tips their hats in respect._ Each phase of the Catholic faith drew Larimer Italians together to continue traditional Old World customs in respect and love for each other.

Old World customs also thrived in the other predominantly Italian church, Trinity Presbyterian Church.  Even though its members converted to the Presbyterian faith, sermons were held in Italian.  Called to America by the East Liberty Presbyterian Church, the Reverend E.G. Ribetti, an Italian Waldensian Protestant, founded the small congregation.  Ribetti began his missionary work on Sheridan Aveune in 1893. His street corner evangelism attracted a number of Italians.  By 1905, the church had 136 active members._ Jean Creo’s grandfather was one of those first converts. A second minister was Salvatore Migliore, also an Italian Waldnesian.  Reverend DeStasi, the last Italian minister at Trinity, was held in high regard by the entire Italian community.  Since the church sat along Larimer Avenue, everyone knew Reverend DeStasi.  The church regularly held community events. Jean Creo recalls that Reverend DeStasi and the congregation would organize volleyball tournaments for neighborhood kids.  At the Carnegie Library branch on Larimer Avenue, the church raised money by performing theatrical productions.  Many performers and volunteers at these plays were not even members of the church.  Trinity Presbyterian Church’s presence again signifies the diversity of Larimer.

The most important events of any Italian community are le feste or the Saints’ Days.  A true continuity between the Old and New World, le feste unified Italians more than any other community activities. Every village in Italy held a festival on its patron saints day.  Villagers honor the saint by carrying a statue of the saint through the streets, while onlookers place money and other valuables upon it. This same procedure occurred in the streets of Larimer, but unlike the villages in Italy, Larimer celebrated more than just one festa.  Since many Italians came from specific regions and villages, they celebrated their own saints days.  One example was the festa of San Agnello Abate, which Neapolitans celebrated.  Others were Saint Anthony, Saint Michael, and the Feast of the Assumption. The most celebrated festa of all was San Rocco.  Larimer Calabrians especially held this day in high regard because they obtained the statue of San Rocco in Italy.  The parade would commence at Our Lady and proceed down Meadow Street.  When it reached Larimer Avenue, the parade then would march down the avenue, visit all the side streets, cross the Larimer Avenue Bridge, and make a loop back to Our Lady on Meadow Street. Nick Isuash and his band would provide music during the entire parade. Residents would either walk the parade route or come outside of their homes to view the saint. As they did in the Old World, Larimer Italians placed money upon the statue as a donation to the church. After the parade ended in the afternoon, the celebration resumed in the early evening at the Larimer Playground located across the street from the Larimer grammar school.  Music and food transformed this small parklet into a celebration of italianita’.  Nick Isuash and his band, plus other musicians, performed on the bandstand, while food stands served sausage, pizza, gelato and other Italian food favorites that fed everyone’s appetite after a long day of marching. When the sun finally set, fireworks would set ablaze the night sky.  Le feste brought everyone together.  Jean Creo, a member of Trinity Presbyterian Church, recalls attending the le feste at the playground._  It was a time when first-generation immigrants would gather and reminiscent about the old days in Italy, a time when old friends would get a chance to talk to each other.  Le feste solidified more than anything else the notion of ethnic identity. They were something all Italians appreciated as being a part of their ancestry.  Writing about the Italian experience in America in general, Frances Malpezzi reflects upon this importance of le feste to all Italians: “In the early twentieth century, when le feste might be associated with the religious traditions of a particular village or region whose emigrants had settled in the same town or urban neighborhood, the occasion helped reinforce ties with the paese. Later, as saints’ festivals began to appeal to entire Italian-American communities regardless of specific points of origin, they became ways of asserting a common ethnicity among people whose ancestors had not recognized their commonality.” _

Village Skyline

Besides cultural traditions and Old World occupations, the village of Larimer also had another distinguishing characteristic-its physical characteristics.  (See Page 36) Dominating the skyline of every Italian village, the bell tower or campanile and the church give the neighborhood a physical identity of an Italian village.  When one looks at the skyline of Venice, two structures tower above the rest of the city.  The church of San Marco with its three domes, and the bell tower located near it. Our Lady, Help of Christians resembles the typical Italian church because three domes are incorporated into the structure just like the San Marco in Venice and St. Peters at the Vatican.  While the three bronze domes awe the viewer from afar, the golden brick structure impresses the onlooker at street level .  Clearly one realizes this structure is not the typical Gothic style American Catholic church.  Salvatore Migliore, a minister at Trinity Presbyterian Church, described Our Lady as “a sumptuous brick edifice. The external and internal structure is characteristically Italian.  The architecture of it is Romanesque with a touch of Byzantine. It has a large cupola.” _  The cupola refers to the main dome in the center of the church.  Italians in Larimer clearly intended to erect a church in reminiscence of the ones in Italy.

The bell tower attached to the Larimer Grammar School was actually a clock tower, resembling an Italian campanile.  The four-sided clock with Roman numerals rang every hour and lit up at night. Constructed in 1904, the clock tower was an addition to the already existing school that was built in 1896.  Pittsburgh Public School records note the architectural style of the school was Italian Lombard.  The school district record states: “Larimer’s tower was added in 1904 and was said to be a replica of one the campanile in Italy. At night when the large clock is illuminated by thirty-two light bulbs, it becomes a beacon of light for the greater part of the East End. The stained glass window was a copy of an 1847 painting by Jalabert now in the Luxembourg Gallery, Paris.” _ The stained glass window mentioned was in the stairwell on the second floor and showed four men dressed in Roman attire.  Marble and terrazzo floors dominated the interior and provided an ambiance more similar to a Medici palace in Florence than a neighborhood school.   Italians in Larimer cherished the clock tower with such passion that in 1936 they angrily protested the school board’s recommendation to tear the structure down because “it is said to be useless and merely an expense to the school board.” _ A newspaper article in 1936 discussed the tower controversy and stated: “There is some sentiment in the community on Larimer Avenue, in favor of preserving the tower, which extends eight stories above the school building. The neighbors are Italians.  Possibly they don’t think the structure is the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but they do like it, because it is Italian style.” _ The villagers of Larimer were as adamant about associating their neighborhood with the clock tower as those in Italy were about associating their village with a campanile.

In 1958, the school board finally decided to demolish the Larimer School clock tower because the structure was supported by unsound wooden floors. _ The school district refused to pay for the installment of concrete floors to shore up the clock tower.  The Larimer Avenue Social Club noted in one of its newsletter that a resident who lived near the school took a picture of the clock tower each day it was being demolished._ Not only did the skyline of Larimer forever change, but the clock tower’s removal echoed the changing nature of Little Italy.

Decline of Village

Just as the construction of Our Lady, Help of Christians solidified the Italian presence in Larimer, tearing down the bell tower symbolized the twenty-year decline of Pittsburgh’s largest Italian enclave.  Three factors unraveled the continuity and solidarity of the village.  Though the housing in Larimer did not resemble the crowded tenements of Pittsburgh’s Hill District, many young people desired to own their homes and avoid living with their immediate families in aging dwellings.  Returning veterans and their young brides desired to establish new lives outside the neighborhood because of upward economic mobility.  The majority of young men worked outside of Larimer, therefore creating an even larger distance between old loyalties and new opportunities. Penn Hills, a suburb adjacent to the city of Pittsburgh and located ten miles from downtown, became the largest recipient of Larimer Italians. According to the 1970 census report, twenty percent of Pittsburgh’s Italians, about 5,000, resided in Penn Hills._ Actually, one could take Lincoln Avenue, which starts in Larimer, all the way to the border of Penn Hills where it becomes Lincoln Road.  Moving right across the border was an ideal solution for many who wanted to maintain close relationships with families and businesses, while living a suburban lifestyle.  Their attachment with the old neighborhood did not entirely wane. Former residents frequently returned to purchase Italian foodstuffs or get a haircut on Larimer Avenue. Other residents relocated to Plum Borough, a suburb beyond Penn Hills, Verona, a small industrial town northeast of Larimer along the Allegheny River, and Stanton Heights and Morningside in Pittsburgh.  The latter two city neighborhoods are northwest of Larimer and thus provided an alternative for those residents who wished to remain within the inner-city.

Another factor involved the in-migration of African-Americans.  There had always been a small African-American community within Larimer along Frankstown and Lincoln Avenues.  But in the early 1950’s, urban redevelopment swept through the lower Hill District and displaced the African-American community there.  The uprooted residents relocated mainly to Homewood-Brushton, which is immediately next to Larimer. Over the course of the 1950’s, African-Americans also began to settle in Larimer itself.  The proportion of African-Americans in Larimer increased from 13.7 percent in 1950 to 54 percent in 1960._ Territorial and culturally-minded Italians felt threatened by the dramatic population shift.

Finally, urban redevelopment reached East Liberty in the early 1960’s.  Reshaping street patterns and demolishing entire blocks of houses, redevelopment forever destroyed Larimer Italians’ trust in government. Not only did redevelopment effect East Liberty proper along Penn Avenue, but it also touched the outskirts of Larimer.  Several blocks surrounding SS. Peter and Paul’s Church were completely eliminated.  The redevelopment authority replaced the hundred year-old houses with low-income townhouses.  A low-income high rise, Auburn Towers, also took shape during this period. Omega Street, which intersected Larimer Avenue, became a four lane thoroughfare renamed East Liberty Boulevard, thus further isolating the community from the East Liberty commercial district.

The 1968 race riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. was the final straw for the remaining Italian residents.  By 1970, fewer than 1,000 Italians continued to reside in Larimer._  The village atmosphere disappeared forever from the streets of Larimer and could never be recaptured in suburbia.  Through the 1970s and 1980s a few businesses continued to operate, but in the end they also closed.  Little Italy was truly dead, but the final nail in the coffin came in 1992 when the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese decided to close Our Lady, Help of Christians.  The church remained open through the years for parishioners who trekked from their suburban homes to attend mass every Sunday.  The closing was inevitable because the diocese clearly knew it no longer served the immediate community.  After ministering to the Italian community for almost one hundred years, the diocese sold the church and school to an African-American congregation. _

The collapse of the village translated into success.  The second-generation fulfilled the American dream of their immigrant parents.  They successfully became financially secure and Americanized.  Moving away from the village, they purchased homes in America’s new paradise, suburbia. Second-generation and third-generation Italians fully assimilated into American society.

From 1920 to 1950, Larimer, Pittsburgh’s forgotten Little Italy, contained and maintained Old World customs, values, occupations, and architecture.  Examining this thirty year period shows how after immigration ceased in the early 1920’s, Italians did not abandon their heritage. Simply, they replicated it in the New World and, therefore, created a new paese which could ease the burden of living in a foreign society.  They succeeded in their new surroundings by using Old World skills such as bricklaying, marble cutting, and construction.  They created grocery stores, bakeries, butchers, barber shops, funeral homes, and a hospital to serve the Italian community. And when fellow compatriots fell on hard times, fraternal societies provided financial support. These organizations also ensured the vitality of the Italian language and history in Larimer. The church and le feste connected residents with Old World spiritual values and traditions.  Celebrating saints’ days was a village event transplanted to the streets of Larimer.  Parades marched down Larimer Avenue, la piazza of the neighborhood, and passed underneath the shadows of Larimer School’s campanile and Our Lady’s bronze domes, which symbolized the quintessential Italian village.  All this occurred thousands of miles away from l’Italia.

Remembering the legacy of Larimer ensures that we never forget the lives of our immigrant ancestors from the Old World and the communities they built to sustain themselves in the New World. Since the Pittsburgh region has the fifth largest Italian American community in the United States, it is vital to disclose to the nation the village atmosphere of Larimer.  Therefore, hopefully, Larimer will never again be overlooked and will secure a noteworthy position among the Little Italys of New York, Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia. _

About giovannibattistaveronapa

Great-grandson of immigrants, emigrant, historian, teacher, pizzaiolo, barista, and bricklayer.
This entry was posted in Memories. Bookmark the permalink.

136 Responses to Larimer Avenue

  1. jaemarie says:

    Thank you for this fabulous article on Larimer Ave…. where I grew up.

  2. jaemarie says:

    Reblogged this on Jaemarie's Blog and commented:
    I loved this blog… brought back so many memories… 🙂

    • You are welcome. I am glad you enjoyed it and had a stroll on memory lane.

      • Joe says:

        I spent my first several years on Winslow St, went to St. Peter & Paul’s church and school. We then moved across the bridge to Olivant St. However, I’m contacting you mainly about my sister Virginia Harberth. She was a teenager on Larimer Ave. during the 50s. I read your blog to her and some of the posts. She recalled several of the people you and others mentioned. I tried clicking on some of the names, but they are on Facebook of which I am not a member or they didn’t work.

        Perhaps you or others remember my sister who now lives in Squirrel Hill.

      • RoseMarie DeRiso says:

        Joe; What is your sister’s maiden name? Her apparent married name rings no bell w/me. I also was raised on the Avenue (Deary St. – lst street after the L.A. Bridge). I attended Divine Providence Academy next door to St.P&P Church. My best friend, Carol Gigante, lived on Olivant.

      • Joe says:

        To RoseMarie:

        Harberth is her maiden name. She is my half sister. Also, my half brother was Henry Harberth. He was a member of the Rogues. We were the Yalenty’s. After P&P, I attended Corpus Christi and Central Catholic. ,

    • Joe says:

      For me too. Memories of LA help keep me going.

  3. Edie Saley Dull says:

    This is the best narrative I’ve read about what life was back then. Thank you for rekindling my memories of the church, school, Kingsley House, Lillian Taylor Camp, the parade of San Rocco, the ‘old world’ stores, etc. Even though we moved away in 1971, I will always cherish my years there.

  4. MEMORIES….thank you sooo well written….

  5. Dominic Brizzi says:

    Great article – I was born in Maierato Italy and we emigrated to the US in 1956 – we lived next door to an Anna and Jan Battista on Shetland Ave in East Liberty – I am sure that Giovanni is related to that lineage. The article very much hit home with my childhood. Thanks

    • Hi Dominic. No relation to the Battista’s. In fact, my family is not from Larimer, but Verona, PA. I grew up in Penn Hills and know many former residents. Glad you enjoyed the article.

    • Vivian says:

      Holy smokes! I was friends with your sister, Lisa, and with Anna Battista’s granddaughter, Anita. I lived in the duplex on the corner of Larimer and Shetland from 1966 until 2009, (except for the years 1971-1979). I’m fifth generation Italian/Italian-American to live in Larimer or East Liberty (where I live now). This article is full of things I remember, or heard about from my family.

      • Elisa says:

        Hi Vivian its a small world. I remember playing in your “big yard” and how the back door of your house opened up to Larimer ave. by the butcher shop.

      • Mike McCoy says:

        My Dad grew up on Shetland. I can’t remember the cross street though. While in Pgh. in August, we drove by there. Madonne! What has happened to LA!

  6. Luv this, I grew up in this era. With Tony Amen, Mick Insogna, Art Nozzillo, Paul Delgaudio and others. What a time. Listening to Dion and Belmonts on Larimar school steps. Geesh, whwere did the time go.

  7. jnzappia says:

    Reblogged this on jnzappia and commented:
    Great blog. I grew up on Larimer Ave. and recently wrote and published a book related to Larimer Ave. The Greatest Gift from Sicily – The Life and Times of Donna Brigita . A non-fiction epic of a courageous single mother who emigrated from Sicily to fulfill her dreams of living in a land of freedom and opportunity – America. A personal and historical account of the pains, joy and adventure experienced by this mother from the time she left Sicily in 1905 until her death in America in 1950. Memories of influential people, famous places, family traditions and authentic southern Italian foods and recipes, growing up in an Italian Paradise called Little Italy (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Larimer Avenue) in the early 1900’s. A book to be enjoyed by anyone who had an ancestor who emigrated from Europe in the early 1900’s. I think you will like this book , available on amazon.

  8. Happy Columbus Day!! Let’s make sure the memories of the Italian American community never fade. Viva LA!

  9. My family were 1 of the last holdouts, we lived on Orphan st,. last street on left before Larimer bridge, I left in 1993 when I got married, Moved my 88 year old Grandpap in 2003, prior to that he lived at the house on Orphan his whole life. He passed in 2005, the house was torn down earlier this year. If you go to Orphan st right this minute, you will find Italian Americans living there still. Thank you for the wonderful article,

  10. Estelle Moschella Bursick says:

    I grew up on Turrett St., went to Help of Chtistians School. I wish I would have appreciated what it was like to grow up there. Looking back it was a great place to live everything centered around the church. We all lived close to our aunts and grandparents, cousins. I also remember Mrs. DeRosa’s coat she wore to church, long with fur collar. Their house was round I thought it was a castle. Thanks for the memories.

  11. Pingback: My Birthplace – Larimer Avenue | Rising...

  12. John A. Impavido (Cousy) says:

    I was born in 1955. When I was very young I saw the last vestiges of Larimer Avenue. It was great to grow up on Auburn Street, the same block as the Kingsley House. Everybody knew each other. We played in the streets and had a blast. I attended both St. Peter & Paul’s and Help of Christian Churches including their schools.

    As I grew up my heart broke as family after family moved away. We finally moved in 1976, the year I got married and went to finish college in Georgia. I was the first in my Italian family, 3rd generation, to finish college.

    I now live in Glenshaw, a suburb of Pittsburgh. Over the years I have driven through the old neighborhood on Memorial Days, with my mother to put flowers on the graves of my family at Mt. Carmel Cemetery. It both saddens and exhilarates me to see the old neighborhood.

    Thanks for the article,

    John Impavido

    • Dominic Brizzi says:

      Not sure if this will be seen by John Impavido (Cousy) but I remember you John – I was good friends with your brother Nick (all thru Saint Peter and Paul, into Help of Christians, especially in 8th grade). I was at your house often the summer of my 8th grade (I remember playing drums in your basement – Nick was the pro). I had a crush on your neighbor Donna. I remember you had a good friend named Sal (I think) Like your self, I have fond memories of growing up in East Liberty and this article by Giovanni really hit home. Hope all is well with Nick. Give him my best

  13. Donna Bianchi says:

    Thank you so much for this article. I am working on our family tree. My great uncle was Dr. William Alvino. I was born at his hospital and had my tonsils removed by him when I was 5. My older sister attended Our Lady Help of Christians’s School. My father was a pharmacist and had a drugstore on Larimer Ave. He passed away in 1943 when I was a baby. We moved to Rochester, NY to be near my mother’s people. As I grew up, we had little association with my Pittsburgh relatives, the Alvino’s and the Capozzi’s. But I remember family stories about Larimer Ave. I see how much I missed. Oh how I wish that I could have experienced growing up in this community. I will print this out, and include it with our family history. I want my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to know about their heritage. Loved your article!!! Thank you.

    • Went to see Larimer two weeks ago. No comment. All that remains are memories!! Keep them alive.

      • Donna Bianchi says:

        Oh, I realize that only memories remain!! But, being the oldest, I have no one else to ask but you. This question has me stumped. The drugstore (pharmacy) owned by Frank Conte, and known as the Mayo Clinic………this rings a bell as something my mother told me. I know that my father had a drugstore on Larmier Ave. Could he have worked for Frank Conte and later bought the store from Frank as half owner with my uncle?? My father was Joseph Capozzi 1899-1943. My uncle Dominic Capozzi was a few years younger and when my father died he became sole owner. Any info that you have would be greatly appreciated. Again thanks for the wonderful article. Can’t wait to show it to our oldest son..
        Thanks, Donna

      • Sorry, I wouldn’t know. Keep LA alive.

  14. Karl P. Martini says:

    Wow. What a trip down memory lane. Thank you for writing such a great article. I was born and raised at 134 Mayflower St. I went to Our Lady Help of Christians school and church, as did my brother and sister. We shopped at all of the stores along Larimer Avenue. My mom used to work at Rimini’s Bakery. I often stopped at Ralph Moio’s place for Italian ice. Moio’s is now located in Monroeville on William Penn Highway, about five minutes from my home in Monroeville. I didn’t leave Larimer until 1994. It made me sad to go but the crime just got too bad and too close. I remember hearing what sounded like a machine gun going off behind my house. Fortunately the good memories are still there and I enjoy reading articles such as this one. Thank you again!

  15. Dominic Brizzi says:

    Donna Bianchi’s response reminded my of the drug store – we (Italian community) knew it as Conte’s . I left Larimer in 1970 at the age of 17. It was every Italian young adult’s dream to work at that pharmacy!! I was never able to work there however. I did work at Nick Marrucci’s almost across the street. I just wanted to share this memory. I too very much enjoyed your Larimer article.

  16. JOSEPH TRENGA says:


    • Kathy Gaston says:

      Hey, Jo Jo, Donna Amato lived next door to you on McDonald Street. She is my mother in law and is reading this now. She said remember all the fun we had together? Please email me with your contact info so I can pass it on to her!!

      Kathy G.

    • Gina Chiccarella Easton says:

      My Grandparents Sgambati lived at 510 McDonald Street..the garage was on the corner of Meadow and McDonald..then my grandparents was the second house on McDonald from there. I now live in Oklahoma but have very very fond memories of growing up in Little Italy…I attended Help of Christians Church and School and went on to St.Paul’s Cathedral in Oakland…now Oakland Catholic for Women…Miss those days….

      • Robert A Creo says:

        I drive thur the area every xmas eve or day. Last nite saw thatbhalf of Help Christ. Torn down and Larimer scholl femced in for rehan project. THE new homes build with 30 million federal grant ate all the way down to Meadow

  17. Tony Pittore says:

    Well written article. I found a site with a lot of early pictures of Pittsburgh and Larimer Ave but the author didn’t set it up for sharing on FaceBook.

  18. David Constable says:

    the lady Jean creo at the beginning of the story is my dad’s sister she has since passed my dad also played in that band that you spoke of nick isuashs. My grandfather was also one that came here in the early 20s. He was a stone mason by trade and later made homemade italian ( lemon ice ) his name was salvatore molitierno. Thanks for the memories.

  19. My Husband (Pat Valerio) grew up there. We were married in Help of Christian Church and lived on Carver street. Many good memories.
    Stacey Valerio

  20. Thanks so much for the beautifully written article. Reading it brought back a flood of memories. My grandparents settled in the 1920s in Larimer avenue and raised 10 kids there. My mom, Norma Altieri, stayed in the neighborhood after she and my father maried and I was born and spent my early childhood there. We lived in an apartment on the 2nd floror over Mr.Corazza’s grocery store (not far from Larimer Bridge). I went to Larimer School and attended mass each sunday with my mom at Help of Christian Church. I remember the stores you mention, the saints day celebrations, and so much more. Thanks again for posting this!

  21. Kathy Sansonetti says:

    Thanks for the memories I grew up there we lived on Meadow street near the bridge I went to Larimer school and Peabody. As a teenager I was very much apart of the gangs that loaf on the corner of Larimer and Meadow street known as the Roges.I was very much apart of the floats on All saints day and rode the float with my Communion dress on.The dances at Help of Christian Church was a blast.I was married in 1966 at Our Lady of Help of Christian,moved away in 1967. So many fond memories I will hold dear forever. I will sign off using my nick name from back then I was known as Nacky.

  22. Louis DePellegrini says:

    Hi, my name is Louis DePellegrini. I lived at 40 Carver Street my entire growing up years and actually cried while reading your article because it brought back so many memories. I have been searching for pictures of the Flamingo Roller Skating Palace that was situated just off of Mayflower Street. I never actually got to see the bldg. as I was too young and it had been demolished before I came along in 1951. But my friends and I used to make good use of the vacant lot it stood upon. We’d play there quite often. One time we all got together and built a small shanty village out of found discarded wood etc…..! I can still feel the fun I had doing that with my friends. Plus I recall as a child on those very humid Indian Summer evenings and also late at night on the weekends, us kids would run to Gigantie’s bakery to get a fresh loaf of hot Italian bread that we would slather with butter! My very first job was working for Mr. Gigantie at the Highland Park Children Zoo’s Pony Track! I have an old picture of myself leading a little girl on a donkey! I also recall all the very beautiful movie houses that graced the Penn Ave area. What a shame our misguided city planners tore them down! I recall as if it were yesterday the times I used to buy live chickens and ducks from a poultry store located up on Frankstown Ave. I always loved birds so one Saturday morning, while my mother was sleeping, I borrowed a hand full of loose change from her purse to purchase a live chicken as a pet. Well, after much fussing from my mother about my new pet and how I earned the money to buy it, I did end up keeping it. But, like a punishment from the powers that be for how I actually got the money, my pet chicken began to lay eggs randomly all over my back yard! The strange thing about the eggs was that they never had shells – JUST EGG YOKE AND WHITES! A real puzzle to solve for an 8 or 9 year old! So, as curious as I was, one night after having listened to K.D.K.A. talk, radio broadcast with Ed and Wendy King, I decided to give them a call to ask about my chicken/egg laying problem. They truly came to my chicken’s rescue, advising me to feed it milk bone dog biscuits or clam shells as the bird just had a calcium deficiency! After noshing on milk bone biscuits, proper eggs were had by all! Well, I could go on and on with the memories cause they certainly seem to stream very easily these days! Thanks for the article! PS- I cry each time I drive by Our LAdy Help of Christians Church and Saint Peter’s and Paul’s too!

    • portersrus says:

      My grandmother was Marie Giganti and my Uncle Gabe. I am only 43 but I remember going to the bakery and eating the hot bread when it ce out of the oven. My mother and her sisters told me lots of stories of when they grew up. Nice to read about where my family came from.

      • Davide Papale says:

        I remember Giganti’s sausage was very good and I remember Deluca’s sausage. My grandfather was Judge Papale who took me everywhere as a young kid in the late 50’s. My grandfather had the football team along with the Rooneys in the 30’s. I have great photos of the times.

    • portersrus says:

      My grandmother and her brothers had Giganti’s Bakery when I was young. I am just in my 40’s. I do remember going to the bakery and eating the bread out of the oven with butter. Also the store in the front. We would hang out there with my Gram. I did enjoy hearing all the stories from my mom and her sisters about growing up there and the family business.

  23. Weezeie says:

    Brought back a lot of memories. Great . The best years of my life. Wish I had a time machine to go back in time.
    I lived on Apple ave my grndprent lived on Larimer.
    Thanks for the memories!

  24. pete machi says:


    • Louis DePellegrini says:

      Yes, I recall as a child the huckster truck pulling down Carver St. in the Summer months. I can still hear him yelling apples, peaches……….! It was an event of the day for the neighbors to gather around searching for the best picks of the day! I also remember the milk delivery man who used to give us kids pointy, chunks of ice he’d chip away with an old ice pick from a big block of ice he had in the back of his truck! We were all hoping for the biggest chunk and then we would move it quickly from hand to hand because it was so cold! A fond memory and sadly a lost neighborhood event!!!

    • Dominic says:

      Wow – this brings back memories – I also worked on “Tippy’s” truck for quite a few summers sometime in the sixties – I even worked at his store on Liberty Avenue “Daily Produce”. Tippy was one of the most colorful fellows I have ever met. He was the one that all the Italian ladies (my mom included) would want to do business with. He side kick (Charlie (I think) – an older individual that would yell “pepper, tomatoes, lettuce… at the top of his voice) was always a little angry that Tippy was giving the produce away too cheaply. He had his moments too and was not really that bad of a guy. I even worked at Nick’s for a couple years after school – he was also a colorful individual – I loved his stories about his early “new” car – a model T Ford he used to tell me about. We lived on Shetland – my mom would cut to the back alley – was that Maxwell? for the morning routine – usually six peppers (or six something else) for a quarter. Wow – I am 61 and remember those days like yesterday. Pretty sure I met you Pete also. Thanks

      • pete machi says:

        PETE MACHI


    • Dave Papale says:

      Hey there Uncle Pete, hope your doing well.

  25. Dolores Babuscio (Grana) says:

    My parents were so proud of their neighborhood,they would have loved this.

  26. Douglas Carlino says:

    Curious if anybody has any old pictures of the Carlino’s from Larmier ave. My dad and his siblings attended Help of Christian. Thanks

  27. lynn says:

    Was there a restaurant called Little Italy?

  28. Linda Moschetta Shirley says:

    What incredible history. My grandparents had a grocery store on Chianti Way. Pietro & Madeleine Moschetta. They / we lived on Arbor street. My mother’s family was from Meadow, Shetland area. Finding info is so difficult. My brother located a lot of old maps and pictures thru University of Pitt website I believe. Thank you for the leads you have included in your writings.

  29. Gary L Stagno says:

    Wonderful stories of the Italians. My grandparents came here from Selvacava Italy

    • louisdpg says:

      Yes, I recall Stagno’s Bakery at Auburn St and Frankstown Ave! When I was a kid I sometimes would stop there on my way to grade school at Help of Christians on Meadow St.

    • Gary I don’t know if you are related to Josehine Stagno .She was my best friend .Back in the 50’s .I lived on Larimer upstairs of the Italian club and next door to Labriolas..I loved this history of Larimer Ave. Made me a little weepy . I almost posted a pic today of me and Josephine in front of Saint Peter and Pauls church.

      • Rose Marie DeRiso says:

        Thanks again, Giovanni, for forwarding the messages. Like Cassandra, I get weepy when I read stories of my beloved Larimer Avenue. Wonderful times in a wonderful place.

        RoseMarie DeRiso

  30. I am so happy that I came across this blog. We are planning a Larimer Street Festival for August 29, 2015. Be apart of the Living Legacy of Larimer. Be apart of restoring the community. Participate in the Larimer Street Festival on August 29, 2015. and

  31. joseh trenga says:

    this is to Kathy Gaston about her mother in law Donna Amoto Donna did live next door to me on McDonald street and we did have lots of fun, we would play in the street until late at night. those days are good memories from the past . Please say hi to Donna for me. From JoJo what they used to call me

  32. Heidi Tamberen says:

    Wow, this article answered so many questions I’ve had while researching my Italian ancestors in the Larimer area. The fact that Chianti was a “dirt road with 29 wooden structures” confirms that my ancestors probably lived on the same street for decades while the street named changed many time. They lived at 12 River, 12 Chianti, 12 Butler on census records over 30 years. Are these addresses all the same property, maybe? I see them or their adult children on 654 Burpee Street and 646 Burpee Street in 1920-1930. Burpee (later Butler?) appears to run parallel to Chianti (later called River or Negley Run?). I wonder if there was a front house facing Burpee and a back house facing Chianti (or vice versa). It would confirm that I’m researching the same family over these years if I can confirm they were always on the same plot of land!

    I’ve never been to this area and I’d love to hear any input you all have! It sound like a lot of you are very familiar with these streets and buildings. I can’t locate exact addresses back in the early 1900’s because the old maps show plots of land but not the address. Even when there are houses on the plots on the map they don’t give a house number, just a plot dimension and an owner’s name.

    I’m looking forward to reading more on this site! It’s exciting to hear about where my grandfather was born! By the way, our family name is Tamberen (originally Tamburino). The family members who left the Larimer community in the 1940’s were Charles, Lois, Mary, Jeanette, Anoinette, Louis (Luigi) and Pasquale Tamburino/Tamberen. My grandfather’s mother’s family were Tedesco and Venturne or Venturnio and might still live in the area. Anyone know any of them? Haha, that would be fun!

    • Dennis DeStefano says:

      Hello Heidi, When I was born (1939) my parents lived on Prince St , which ran between Broad St and Washington Blvd. We lived there until Oct. 1960. I and my sister (Barbara , deceased) attended St Peter & Paul school, Dilworth and graduated from Peabody.
      I remember my grandmother mentioning , many times, that she was related to both the Tedesco and Venturino families. If you are interested on following up on this I started a “family tree” ( now seriously out of date ) that I am willing to share with you, if it might be mutually helpful. I am presently on vacation and won’t be returning home, where this ancestral information is located, until Aug 21. I have “tons” of East Liberty memories.
      Best Regards, Dennis DeStefano

      • Davide Papale says:

        I remember the name DeStefano. I thought there was a family connection but maybe not.

      • douglas carlino says:

        My dad is Orlando Carlino also born in 1939. Curious if anyone here has any Carlino photos of him or his siblings? His siblings were Ernie, Augie, Dom and his sister was Betty. My grandparents were Igino and Delphina.

    • Gina Easton says:

      I was born and lived at 6433 Carver Avenue…my father’s brother Tony was married to Christine Tedesco…they lived 2 doors down from us….great memories…Gina Chiccarella Easton

  33. Giovanni: I have made NUMEROUS attempts to respond to this WONDERFUL article. None of the msgs will send via E-mail to you. Tried several ways. In any event, I am unable to pull up this article to print it, my printer will not accept numerous pages as this one. I went to Shaler Library yesterday to attempt to print it. I cannot pull up e-mail from there. Is there any chance you can send me a copy? I will gladly pay for the postage and the printing costs. In the E-mail I sent to you I stated that my grandfather’s store, Altrudo Meat Market & Grocery on Larimer at corner of Hamilton across from Divine Providence Academy where I attended. Store was in existence from the 40’s into the mid 60’s when grandpa passed away. Also missing was my parent’s ricotta, mozzarella, basket cheese manufacturing business – corner of Meadow & Larimer across from Meadow Grill, next to Ferrara Gas Station. A dry cleaner shop next to our shop caught fire, took our business with it & my parents’ rebuilt on Washington Blvd. Our business was called “DeRiso Dairy Products” – early 40’s thru late 50’s when Dad passed away at age 47. I LOVE LOVED LOVED the article – I refer to the Avenue as “my beloved Larimer Avenue” & would Love to return to it and the 50’s of being raised there.

  34. Anna Mauro Evans says:

    Great timing in finding your wonderful history. Family members whom I had never met are doing a family tree. Our family past is all about Meadow St. and Larimor Ave. My grandmother’s house still stands (you would never recognize it) as evidenced on Google. Much of my childhood is like a storybook based on the rich experiences that I had in that neighborhood.

  35. Giovanni: My apologies. When I sent you the update on my parents’ business on Larimer Avenue (DeRiso Dairy Products) and my grandfather’s business (Altrudo Meat Market & Grocery, I mistakenly said the Altrudo store was at Hamilton & Larimer. It was at the corner of Hoevler and Larimer. Thank you. RoseMarie DeRiso 8/31/15

  36. Thanks for the info, Rosemarie.

  37. Rocco says:

    Outstanding article. My grandfather Rocco and grandmother Victoria lived on Shetland across from the Mt. Zion Baptist church. He was secretary at the East End YMCA for many years, and deacon at the East End Baptist church (later Union) at the corner of Stanton and Negley Aves in East Liberty. He helped many young Italians learn English and find work, having graduated from Colgate in NY. I recall he filled in for other pastors during their summer vacations, including at African American congregations in the Larimer area.
    If anyone has any memories or pictures they could send me that include him, that would be great. My grandmother’s brother John (Giovanni) Biscelgia also was a member and preached at Trinity, which was the Second Italian Presbyterian before changing its name. He married the daughter of the then pastor Thomas Fragale and moved to Kansas City. His bio can be found on the Kansas City website and reads like a movie script. Any memories or information about him or Trinity would be most appreciated, including photos of the inside of the church. The baptismal vessel is in the collection of the Heinz History Center, including a copy of a book by last Pastor DiStasi with its history (” The Miracle of Trimity”).

    Best Regards, Rocco Cerchiara (III)

    • Grazie, Rocco! The presence of an Italian Protestant church is another fascinating aspect of Larimer Avenue’s history.


      • louisdpg says:

        I recall a very large old brick Church that was located on the corner of Shetland and I think it was the next street over from Mayflower Street. Well anyway, as a kid it was vacant and can remember people breaking the stained glass windows. Kids would throw rocks at them. Whenever I would pass on my way to Our Lady Help of Christian’s school, I would collect the chard’s of colored glass and put them in a box which I stored in my garage on Carver St. When I got to being a High School student at Peabody, I used those glass chard’s as part of a mosaic I made in my Art class. I still have it hanging on my wall! Also, was wondering if anyone has any pictures of the Flamingo Roller Skating Palace that one stood behind the Basalone Club – where the high rise used to be? If so please let me know. Later, Louis D.

      • Douglas says:

        Hi I’m the son of Orlando Carlino. My dad and his family lived on Larmier Abe. Their house is no longer there. I recently acquired some pictures of my family and would be willing to share from their home. Also some of these pictures were their friends from Larmier. Some our identified from my dad and others not. Any interest in seeing some?

        Sent from my iPhone


      • Rocco says:

        The red brick church that was Trinity is still open, on the corner of Mayflower and Larimer across from the urban garden. You can view it on the street view of Google maps for 309 Larimer Ave. Now it operates as Agape Ministries. Is this the church you remember? If so, would you happen to have any pieces of the stained glass that you didn’t use?

      • LPod says:

        Hi louisdpg,
        The Carnegie Museum of Art’s Tennie Harris archives has photo of the fire that destroyed the Flamingo skating rink.

      • PJ Ionadi says:


        Thanks for the excellent document on the history of Larimer Avenue (Little Italy) and the many aspects that made it a truly special place. It brought back many wonderful memories.

        P. Ionadi


      • louisdpg says:

        Hey Rocco, thanks for the “FLAMINGO” tip. I will check it out. Also, While passing by Our Lady Help of Christians Church the other day, I noticed the doors were opened and a man standing on the steps! So, I got out and he let me in to see what was left inside. He could not tell me what was happening to it. What a devastation, all the confessionals and altar are gone! Many portions of the stained glass have been removed or destroyed. I recall a beautiful ceramic mosaic that was installed in the domed ceiling over what was the altar – of angels! I think it was just painted over w/white paint. Can’t imagine somebody going through all the trouble to dismantle it! If I am correct, I think the man I met works at Construction Junction in Point Breeze. Maybe they may be selling some of the artifacts. I should give them a call! Well, thanks again and keep me in the loop! I remember a childhood classmate of mine from OLHC. His name is Michael Evangalista! Wonder if he is still around! We were mischievous in school! Louis D.

      • Rose Marie DeRiso says:


        I very much appreciate the updates you’ve been sending me on my beloved Larimer Avenue. I got half sick reading the message on Our Lady Help of Christians Church. Our grandfathers/uncles built the church, stone by stone, marble by marble, inside and out. What a heartbreak! I was baptized there, lst Holy Communion, Confirmation. I intentionally do not pass because it would be a heartbreak for me, as stated in the report to you.

        A thought – Any chance that you & I might arrange a Larimer Avenue reunion party? Can you only imagine the stories and the good company? Perhaps rent someplace in Oakmont, Harmar or closeby, get a caterer and spend a wonderful afternoon or evening? If we talk someplace like the Greek Church in Oakmont, I think Sat’s would be out of the question b/c they do weddings every Sat. (I think) spring thru early winter. Are there sufficient numbers of Larimer Avenue people local that we could pull this off? I assume some of these responses you’ve posted are from out-of-towners. Might be a little difficult because we’d have to have some idea of the number of people who’d attend prior to renting a facility.

        Your thoughts?

        RoseMarie DeRiso

      • Dear Rosemarie,
        I think a reunion would be an excellent and, in fact, long overdue idea. Unfortunately, I no longer live in the Pittsburgh area. I am more than happy and willing to let you utilize this blog to inform LA folks of such an event or picnic. Penn Hills Park or Boyce Park might be an excellent location. Renting an hall or banquet might be formal and elegant, but remember the costs. Plus, the summer time will definitely allow out-of-towners to able to return. Heck, I could even make it in the summertime.

      • Rose Marie DeRiso says:

        Dear Giovanni:

        Thanks so much for the prompt response. I may start to work on “do-ables” for this idea. You’re right @ a hall/versus a park. The comment by Mr. Carlino might be invaluable as far as friends notifying friends of a reunion, plus your generous offer to me of utilizing your blog. I’ll be in touch. (I have run off copies of every communiqué that you have forwarded to me on my beloved Larimer Avenue. Invaluable!!)


      • Douglas Carlino says:

        I’m a out of towner but I know my dad loves to get together with his larmier friends. I bet he or his buddies might be interested. A lot of the old timers don’t always use the internet but they still get together in Bloomfield. My dad also went to Help of Christians and lived on Larmier. He’s still friends with his one neighbor for over 70 years.

    • Mary Virginia Easton says:

      Rocco I lived next door to the Cerchiara family on Shetland Avenue until I graduated St. Paul’s Cathedral High School in Ockland….attended Help of Christians grade school…I remember your family….my family left Pittsburgh when I graduated high school and moved to Florida…my sister still lives in Florida I however live in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area…my maiden name was Chiccarella…..

      • Mary Virginia Easton says:

        Rocco , I pulled up my old Pittsburgh residence on google and it was still standing…think the church bought the houses on both sides for parking….I lived in the grey stucco duplex at 6549 Shetland Avenue….right next door to the Cerchiara family

      • Mike McCoy says:

        Did you know Frank Cherchiara who eventually lived on Meadow St?

    • Gina Chiccarella Easton says:

      I lived at 6549 Shetland Avenue..grey stucco duplex…next door to the Cerchiara family….that Baptist Church was on the corner of Shetland and Lincoln…..I have pulled up pictures of the grey stucco duplex but there are parking lots on both sides of it now. The corner store is boarded up…..many many memories…..moved away after graduating high school in 1953.

  38. Michael Grady says:

    Such remarkable memories of growing up in this neighborhood. My grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins lived on Jackson St and Farragut St off Highland Ave. My grandfather and grandmother,Salvatore and Theresa Natale owned a small grocery store on Larimer Ave. My aunts attended Sacred Heart and uncle’s Peabody HS. Is there any chance that you would have any information on the Natale family ?
    Thank you for sharing.

  39. Richard Antonelli says:

    Thank you for honoring a great Italian community.

  40. Lou says:

    Well researched work on the Italian community. Although I did not grow up there we had good family friends on Macdonald street, Andonizio, Coochi,Mario and MaryAnn. Mrs.Amato and her son both worked for my father at Silver Lake Drive In and Dairy Queen. I also worked Christmas break from college at Deriso on Washington Blvd.

    • RoseMarie DeRiso says:

      Thank you so much Lou, and you Giovanni, for having sent me this article. SO WONDERFUL that some out there still remember my parents’ cheese business (ricotta/mozzarella/scamorza/etc.). Our business was originally on Larimer Avenue at Meadow St – across from Meadow Grill (EVERYONE remembers the Meadow Grill DelPizzo’s). A tailor shop next to our building burnt and took our building w/it so Dad rebuilt on Washington Blvd. Again, thank you so very very much for remembering working during your college break for my Dad. I refer constantly to “my beloved Larimer Avenue” – a WONDERFUL place. Just wish we were still back there in the 50’s.
      RoseMarie DeRiso

    • JOSEPH TRENGA says:


  41. Jeannie Sansosti Satterfield says:

    Jeannie SANSOSTI Satterfield……We lived on 121 Finley St. I loved growing up there…My Mother was a LOMBARDO..Our Family is awesome… many memories..I hold them all in my heart..This was wonderful to read..Thank you for posting !

    • Douglas Carlino says:

      If I’m not mistaken the Lombardo family name was from Rocca Cinquemiglia like my family that family name is still popular their in Italy. I found some interesting things in my Grandpap’s suitcase with pictures including the name Onorio Lombardo with a address. My Grandpap died in 1981 in Morningside but he lived in Larmier. I have some old pictures of People I wonder if they could of been from your family. I also know a Lombardo was my dad’s and his brothers godparents. Does the name Carlino ring a bell to you?

      • Douglas carlino says:

        James and Marianna Lombardo were my dad’s godparents. I also have a prayer card for Marianna. I think she was laid out in Bloomfield in the late 70’s early 80’s.

  42. holderide says:

    Andrew Cecere, who grew up on Larimer in the Depression years, is the author of a recently published novel titled The Avenue. The story focuses on the “apartness” of the Larimer neighborhood’s first and second generation Italian residents as portrayed through the experiences of a young man raised there. One review calls The Avenue “An elegant novel about the function of place in both the outward life and in the human heart. The story’s follows the life of Danny Castleforte as he strives to escape the shame and limitations he feels for his Italian American neighborhood and becomes the successful Daniel Castle. But is he free or simply uprooted, as old passions and new perils constantly beckon him back to where he started. In reading this often heart-aching story, one recalls the famous last line in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby –- “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” Cecere began writing the novel 25 years ago but let it set unpublished for years before moving it to print. You can learn more about the book on Cecere is a retired attorney now living in Richmond, Indiana. Interestingly, the book has earned the praise of one celebrity reader — Del Harris, former coach of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets. His review also appears on the Amazon site. Cecere does not use computers, hence no direct email contact, but his friend and assistant, Richard Holden at, will be glad to pass along queries and comments to Andrew.

    • Rose Marie DeRiso says:

      Thank you, Giovanni, for forwarding these msgs to me. I enjoy EVERY one of them. I intend to attempt to get the book.

      RoseMarie DeRiso

  43. Marilyn Cannata says:

    My mother was a Vento. Her brother Al owns Ventos Pizza. My uncle Baz worked at the Social Club. I remember walking across the bridge to go buy wonderful Italian sausage on Larimer Ave.

  44. Cristina says:

    My grandfather was born on Mayflower St and when he married in 1947 moved a block down from where he grew up. He & grandma raised their own family on Mayflower St as well. My grandparents took me under their wing when I was 3 yrs old, so I too was also raised on Mayflower St until I moved out when I attended college. My grandmother passed away in May of 2015 but my grandfather is currently still living in the same home on Mayflower St. He is proud of his house & his neighborhood. He was sad to see it get neglected & run down but he always said that it was going to get built up again & he was right. The redevelopment has begun! He’s lucky enough to still be alive & well to witness it.

  45. Dave Papale says:

    Great story of an Italian American Neighborhood where I was born.
    Dave Papale

  46. Crystal Richards says:

    Recently my family purchased a DNA kit for my mom ( Geraldine Davis) on her birthday in October she is 80 and still wants to know her birth parents. Her adoptive Father was Reverend Junius Davis of the Church of God in Christ on the corner of Armandale and Monterrey on the north side of Pittsburgh. Her first adoptive mother Lucy Mae Passed and Rev. Davis remarried Alberta Marie. My adoptive grandmother introduced me to my mothers Birth-mother when i was about 8 or 9 she said her name was rose the last name was too hard to remember. Later someone gave my mom the last name of Calabrese. The DNA has connected us to Shavio, Capozzoli,Simionetti and others but those are the most predominate mom was born in 1936 help would be appreciated I know this were hard then but this is a gift for my mom before she lives this world she should know since that is her desire.
    Thank you

    • Mike McCoy says:

      My sister wants to try one of those DNA kits. I’ll pay for it. But it’s good that we can trace our origins. I’ll bet that if we all did it, we’d find out that many of us from LA are related.

  47. Alina Keebler says:

    I work for TAI+LEE architects and we are working on the renovation of Larimer School. If anyone has any old pictures of the outside or inside of the school, we would love to see them, the older the photos, the better. Please contact me at so that we can make arrangements to copy the photos. Thank you so much We want to do the best job possible in the renovation of this great building.

    • Mike McCoy says:

      It’s been awhile ago, but I found quite a few pictures of Larimer school on the web.
      I attended kindergarden there. We lived right across the street on Winslow.

      • Joseph Trenga says:

        my name is joe trenga, Iwent to larimer school also and remember going to school and after school we would go and collect paper and tin for the war. This is back in the fourties. I don’t have pictures but I wish I did.

  48. Dave Papale says:

    Have you been to Larimer lately? I go there every week to see how the city is erasing every last memory from what is a true Americana story. There will be no memory of what truly happened there. Nothing will be left, not even a sign, a plaque let alone a monument. I would like to start a fund to build a monument and build it on a city owned parcel on Larimer Ave. It might take time but I know it can be done. Our great grandparents came here to build a village and to pursue their dreams of living in the greatest country in the world. We can’t let them down or the whole thing comes crumbling down like the city wants it to. So I ask al those families who were LA to join in and make a donation whatever it may be will help us in not letting the city erase what was our heritage Italians and Sicilians. Click on the link below to make our grandparents and great grandparents journey to build a village.

    • Dear Dave,
      Your idea is courageous and meaningful. However, the city would probably not allow you in this era European ethnicity shaming culture. I would like to suggest something intangible such as a documentary. Or another idea could be a collection of photographs of Larimer Avenue. Best of luck! I kindly ask others to please make comments and suggestions. Buon Natale!

  49. Mike McCoy says:

    I spent my early years in Larimer having been born on Winslow St and attended St Peter and Paul. We moved across Larimer Bridge when I was 7 or so. I remember the Avenue quite well and have returned there many times over the decades to observe the changes.
    The change of the Avenue and East Liberty overall was due to the departure from the Avenue of we paisan like my parents. Thus, fewer and fewer people remained to sustain Labriola’s, the five and dime, The Red Eagle, or Help of Christians and Larimer School.
    The memory of Larimer Avenue is in us and in websites like this one. On several trips to Pittsburgh I’ve brought at least a couple of my kids and we toured East Liberty. I want them to know about it and how it helped shaped the man I’ve become. My sisters and I discuss Larimer and East Liberty all the time: the changes and the old days. It’s up to us the keep the memory alive and to pass it on to our children and grandchildren.
    We and they are the sign, the plaque, and the monument.

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  51. Joe Emanuele says:


    I just recently found this incredible 2012 article of yours about Larimer Avenue, and my family, the Emanuele’s, Bove’s, Pietropola’s, and Fanella’s all lived in the 500 and 600 block on Lenora Street from the teens until the 1960’s, and in the ravine below their back yards would have been Basso La Vallone and Chianti Way, and my Grandfather Giuseppe Emanuele kept his horses in a stable down in the hollow of Negley Run.

    At the end of your paragraph about Chianti Way and Basso La Vallone, it says there is a photo on page 34, but I do not see it in your blog.

    Am I looking in the wrong place for it?



  52. Kathy DeNinno says:

    Thank you for such a vivid recollection of Larimer Avenue. I was born and raised there, and only moved away when I got married. I loved living there. My grandparents and some aunts and uncles also lived in Larimer village.
    I remember the saints’ feastday parades, and I thought Our Lady Help of Christians Church was the most beautiful church I had ever seen.
    And I remember the wonderful aromas of the Italian grocery stores, and the older Italian women, along with my Grandmother in their black dresses, picking dandelions every spring.
    I was blessed to have experienced such a beautiful childhood, rich in tradition.

    • Mike McCoy says:

      I too was born and raised on Larimer Ave and I remember Labriola’s, Stagno’s, and Meadow Grill. Help of Christians was a beautiful church, but that beauty was surpassed by St Peter and Paul’s where I went to church and school the first grade.

      • Dominic Brizzi says:

        What a great article. We (the Brizzis) lived on Shetland Ave from about 1959 to 1970. Lot of good memories of all those Italian stores. I worked on Tippy’s fruit truck for many a summer as a kid. Also at Nick Marucci’s later on. Good memories of Tippy (Balestrieri) and Nick especially

  53. Marlene Gentilcore says:

    Thank you so much for all your hard work and insight into the neighborhood I grew up in and was too young to appreciate the history, my Italian heritage, and what once was familiar and now gone. Mom shopped at Nick’s Market, Deluca’s Meats, Conte’s Drug Store, and watching the little Italian woman fling pizza dough in the Meadow Grill window. Listening to bands in the band field. Walking down Meadow Street to Our Lady of Help of Christians church. Classes at Kingsley House, ceramics, dance lessons, playing in the gym. So much fun! Walking a mile or more to Highland Park to swim every day in the summer, ice skate on the pond in winter. Good times. Wonderful neighborhood and neighbors. Worked at Belvedere Hospital after became a nursing home once Pittsburgh Hospital was built.

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