Newswire » Local History » Dublin’s Little Italy

Dublin’s Little Italy

Dublin’s Little Italy By Jack Gorman Croome

Long before Mick Wallace redeveloped Bloom Lane into the unofficially named “Italian Quarter”, Dublin already has it’s own little Italy as it was known. Dublin’s Italian community lived in the area   located between Ship Street, Chancery Lane and Werburgh Street between the 1840s and the 1930s. The 1911 census numbered fewer than four hundred immigrants of Italian birth living here though relatively small in numbers there long-lasting influence can be seen on the city to this present day.

The first Italians probably came to Dublin came with the Normans, theses men’s interests lay in commerce and trade. They were wine merchants’ money lenders and bankers but by the early 19th century a new wave of Italian immigration hit our shores, these men were often referred to as “the marble men” hailing mainly from the Luca region. Fantastically skilled crafts people with much sought after skills in stucco work, ornamental work woodwork, stone and marble work. Naturally, they found work in churches and the many fine houses being built and renovated in Ireland at this time.


The 20th century brought with it another new wave of Italians to Dublin, mostly they were self-employed as street vendors and were definitely a visual treat on the Dublin streets with professions such as ice cream vendors, organ grinders, some with a money accompanying them dressed in national costume there to collect money and street musicians.  A poplar instrument among Italian street musicians in Dublin of the time is the greatly named “Hurdy Gurdy”. Little Italy and its residents were well known for their New Year Eve’s celebrations where the residents would dress in traditional Italian costume and the street vendors and musicians would celebrate the coming of the New Year as the bells of the nearby Christchurch would ring, the carnival like atmosphere would attracted people from across the city to this street party.

And then came the Italian fish and chip shop, by 1909 there was 20 Italian fish and chip shops in Dublin. Remarkable most of these families that ran these shops came from the same region of Italy the province of Frosinone in the south of Italy. With names above the doors like Borza, Morelli’s and Fortes, names that at one time must have seemed so exotic on the streets of Dublin are now part of the Dublin vernacular. In terms of social influence, the Italian chipper were majority Catholic and encouraged the Catholic religious tradition of eating fish instead meat on a Friday. As Dublin expanded and moved outward the 50s, 60s, and 70s so did the Italian fish and chip shop and new suburbs brought new opportunity  for growth and truly  ingrained the Italian fish and chip shop into daily Irish life.

Giuseppe Cervi was credited with opening Dublin’s first fish and chip shop, arriving in Ireland from Italy in 1882, he worked as a labourer. He eventually saved up enough money to buy a coal-fired cooker and a cart. He began selling chips outside pubs in Dublin as the popularity of this grew he with his wife, Palma, opened his own shop. He found a permanent place on Great Brunswick Street now called Pearse Street. It is Cervis’ wife Palma that is credited with coming up with the very Dublin phrase of “a one and one” meaning a fish and chip meal.


Some Italians of note include Charles Bianconi, known as the father of Irish transport who set up Ireland’s first public regular transport system in the 1800s, Bianconi arrived in Ireland 1802, when he was 16 he worked as an engraver and printer in Dublin, near Essex Street, under his sponsor Andrea Faroni another Italian entrepreneur. In 1806 he set up an engraving, gilding and print shop in Carrick on Sure, moving to Clonmel  in 1815 and shortly after starting his transport business. At his peak, around 1845, Bianconi had about 1,400 horses covering more than 6,000km a day across 123 towns. Bianconi died aged just before his 90th birthday and left his business to his employees.

Joseph Patrick Nannetti was Home Rule nationalist and a committed trade unionist. Nannetti was born in Dublin in 1852, a son of an Italian sculptor. He was educated by the Christian Brothers on Baggot street and took up an apprenticeship in printing, by 1900 he was firmly enveloped in politics been elected MP for the constituency of College Green. He was elected mayor of Dublin in 1906 and again in 1907 and is even mentioned in James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Leave a Reply

© 1991-2014 Fountain Resource Group Ltd. · Registered Company Number: 193051C · RSS · Website designed by Solid Website Design