Little Italy hopes to become official town in Arkansas
LITTLE ITALY (KATV)--A unique place, less than an hour away from Little Rock, is known as Little Italy. The nearly 100-year-old community is split between Pulaski and Perry Counties, and in a grassroots movement residents want to incorporate into their own town.
Tucked away in the mountains, on un-incorporated land, sits Little Italy home to around 400 people, many are related to Italian immigrants who first settled here in 1915.
Channel 7 spoke with one of the oldest Italian families living in Little Italy, the Dal Santos, John, 94, and Olga, 89.
It was back around 1915 when Olga's family, the Vaccaris, first settled in Little Italy, Arkansas.
"There was no church or anything here, and they built a home and five families was living in that one home," said Olga Dal Santo.
John Dal Santo met Olga Vacarri in 1939 in Little Italy. While John came to America from Italy when he was 10-years-old, it was Olga's family who was one of the last Italian families to settle here in Arkansas.
"I came from a poor country, and Olga's folks came from Italypoor people, that's why we came here," said John Dal Santo.
Next year, Little Italy will celebrate its 100th year as a community. An annual tradition held here at the St. Francis Catholic Church is a spaghetti dinner and it's Olga's mother's recipe that's still used today.
"If it wasn't for her cooking, I'd be dead I guess, good Italian food," said Dal Santo.
While the Dal Santos may be the oldest living Italians in Little Italy, many like Kristy Eanes, their great-niece, also have ties to this community as they hope to preserve its heritage.
"Trying to collect 200 signatures, in order to incorporate Little Italy into an official town," said Eanes, Little Italy Taskforce Co-Chair.
Their deadline is March 1, 2015 and so far half the signatures have been collected.
"We're proud of our heritage, our Italian heritage, and we want to preserve that so I did some research of ways to do that, and incorporation seemed the best way," added Eanes.
"I'm proud to be an Italian and all those Italians that came in here, we should deserve to carry on their name," said Dal Santo.
Once the signatures are gathered, they'll be turned in to the Pulaski County Clerk's Office; from there a judge will decide the fate of Little Italy.