Little Italy Historic District

Cities as diverse and far-flung as San Francisco, London and Melbourne have a neighborhood they call Little Italy.

Cities as diverse and far-flung as San Francisco, London and Melbourne have a neighborhood they call Little Italy. Now, Sacramento has one, too.

In late 2021, the city council adopted a resolution designating a portion of East Sacrament —the area bounded by Folsom Boulevard and 48th, 59th and J streets—as Little Italy, in recognition of the role Italian Americans played in developing the area leading up to World War II.

As director of Sacramento’s Italian Cultural Society, Bill Cerruti helped lobby the council for the designation. He grew up in the neighborhood and fondly recalls the businesses and cultural institutions that drew the Italian American residents together. Some are now gone: Quality Market, Pesce’s locksmith shop, Español restaurant, the Italian American-owned
gas station at 59th and J where Shakey’s Pizza once sat. Others—Corti Brothers, Talini’s Nursery, the Nicoletti funeral home, St. Mary’s Catholic church—are still around and thriving.

“The Italians who live in and around the area remember all these things,” says Cerruti, who went to school with other Italian American kids. Back then, he says, the area was populated by working-class families, who squeezed lots of children into the small, ranch-style homes that dominated the neighborhood in the late 1940s.

Last June, the city erected handsome signs on Folsom Boulevard, decorated with the colors of the Italian flag and bearing the words “Little Italy Historic District.” The Italian Cultural Society has other ideas to give the neighborhood some Italian American swagger: painting the fire hydrants and light poles red, white and green; putting a Little Italy arch at both ends of Folsom Boulevard; building a piazza with space for a historic display and maybe a monument to the Italian American community. Cerruti says East Portal Park, home to East Portal Bocce Club, would be a natural location.

These days, Cerruti lives in Sierra Oaks, but he still visits his childhood neighborhood often. He hopes Sacramento’s Little Italy becomes a destination for out-of-towners, like it is in cities such as San Diego and New York. “I love the area,” he says. “I have great childhood memories of living there.”