An Italian-American is an American of Italian descent. Many, although proud of their heritage, prefer to be referred to simply as "American."
Although Italians arrived early to the new world, beginning with Christopher Columbus in 1492, and continuing with early explorers John Cabot, Giovanni da Verrazano and Amerigo Vespucci, the largest wave of Italian immigration to the United States took place in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Between 1820 and 1978, 5.3 million Italians immigrated to the United States, including over two million in the years 1900-1910 alone (although about 1/4th of all Italian immigrants did not settle permanently in America and eventually returned to Italy). Only the Irish and Germans immigrated in larger numbers.
In the 2000 US Census, Italian-Americans constituted the sixth largest ancestry group in America with about 16 million people (5.3% of the total U.S. population).
Common stereotypes continue to link Italian Americans to organized crime and restaurant workers , unflattering images which remain staples of Hollywood movies. Certainly, organized-crime was never as honorable as the romanticized "GODFATHER" portrayed, and many of that novel's alleged Sicilian cultural mentions were, indeed, as Neapolitan as the author of Mario Puzo's family background in and around Naples; so-called "families" in the Mafia were always a mixture of Calabrese, Napolitano and Siciliani, along with some Jewish and Irish elements. Nevertheless, the National Italian American Foundation found that two-thirds of Italian Americans held white collar jobs in 1990 and that there were never more than a few thousand individuals in the Mafia.
Like other ethnic groups in the USA their political beliefs are diverse. The U.S. Congress includes Italian-Americans who are regarded as leaders in both leading parties of Republicans and Democrats.
In some Italian-American communities, Saint Joseph's Day (March 19) is marked with celebrations and parades. Columbus Day is also widely celebrated in these communities, as are the feasts of some regional Italian patron saints, most notably San Gennaro (September 19) by those claiming Neapolitan heritage, and Santa Rosalia (September 4) by Sicilians.
Italian American communities
(Places that you would never suspect have communities of Italian-Americans, such as Omaha, Nebraska and New Orleans, which is the first site of immigration of Italians and Sicilians into America, before Italy was even a complete nation unto itself. In Kansas City, Missouri, the areas known as "North of the River" (and the former areas of "The North End" and "Northeast Kansas City") have flourished with Italian-American families, mostly from a Sicilian heritage, working on anywhere from 3rd to 5th generation! Kansas City was even notorious, unfortunately, for its own crime-group, known as "The Black Hand", Mafia or The Mob, but not Cosa Nostra. Smaller "outfits" in cities other than New York and Chicago, like Kansas City, are virtually extinct or seemingly dying.)
The following is a list of areas known for Italian-Americans, but it is not entirely complete.
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York
Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, New York
Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, New York
- Manhattan Beach , Brooklyn, New York
Mulberry Street, Manhattan (New York's Little Italy)
- Pleasant Avenue, East Harlem, Manhattan, New York
Arthur Avenue, Bronx, New York
- Morris Park , Bronx, New York
Pelham Bay, Bronx, New York
Throgs Neck, Bronx, New York
Astoria, Queens, New York
Ozone Park, Queens, New York
- Whitestone , Queens, New York
Seventh Avenue, Newark, formerly known to as "the First Ward."
- Silver Lake section, Belleville, New Jersey
South Philadelphia in Philadelphia
- Melrose Park, Melrose Park, Illinois
- Federal Hill, Providence, Rhode Island (see the movie of "FEDERAL HILL" at the IMDB.com website)
North Beach, San Francisco, California
- the North End in Boston, Massachusetts
Little Italy in Baltimore, Maryland
- Little Italy in San Diego, California
Little Italy in Syracuse, New York
- Little Italy in Chicago, Illinois
- Little Italy in Cleveland, Ohio
- Armour Square, Chicago, Illinois
Greater New Haven, Connecticut
Rhode Island (which claims to have the most Italian-American residents of any state)
A list of people who have referred to themselves ethnically as "Italian," or have an Italian parent can be seen at the list of Italian Americans.