Little Italy commemorated

Katie Alexander

The Vermont Italian Club (VIC) will host a festival at the Burlington City Hall Oct. 6 commemorating the Little Italy of Burlingtons past with Italian history, food and pride.

Little Italy prospered in Burlington around Battery Street and Pearl Street at the turn of the century until the urban renewal projects of the 1950s and 1960s. Through urban renewal, the city of Burlington bought entire blocks of Little Italy to tear down and resell.

VIC was formed in 1983 to recognize the old community and reclaim some of Vermonts Italian heritage.

President of the VIC Adele Dienno explained the struggles Vermont-based Italian-Americans faced during this time.

Burlington said it was a slum and they had to tear it down, Dienno said. Part of our clubs original mission is to keep our heritage alive.

Through the process of urban renewal, dozens of complexes were destroyed and more than 140 families were displaced.

Terri Burrell, VIC board member, shared the difficulties her own family faced.

We got so little for our homes and had to relocate, Burrell said.

The only businesses still in business from the era are Merolas Store and Boves.

Today VIC seeks to revive the spirit of the Italian people and honor their contributions to Burlington, according to the VIC website.

The festival is an occasion to inform, remember and celebrate the culture.

Last year the celebration of Burlingtons Little Italy included the dedication of an official state marker commemorating Burlingtons old Italian neighborhood. This years celebration will include the revealing of an additional five signs placed at the approximate boundaries of the neighborhood.

There will be a slideshow of family photos of members, dating back multiple generations, and a wide array of food to purchase.

Its Italian, Dienno said. You cant go away hungry.

Homemade cannoli, biscotti and pizzelli will be for sale, as well as Boves Meatballs and Open Hearth Pizza.

We just want people to look historically into heritage as being valuable, Dienno said.