YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Some cities have Little Italy’s. But Youngstown has Brier Hill — a neighborhood on Youngstown’s north side where many of the city’s Italian Immigrants settled and raised families.
On this weekend of the 26th annual Brier Hill Italian Festival, some locals remembered the way the neighborhood used to be.
“As a matter of fact,” said Joe Naples, who grew up a short walk away, “when I was growing up, I thought when you got older that you spoke-a like-a dis.”
“It was a wonderful place to grow up,” 85-year-old Guy Schiavone said.
Schiavone and his family lived on Oakland Avenue.
“Because we had a grocery store, of course, you had a lot of people from the mills coming in and shopping,” he said.
What is now ITAM Post 12 on Brier Hill was, a long time ago, a grocery store, too.
Now, it’s a bar — and the focal point of the Italian Festival.
Inside you’ll find pictures of the old days, when the young Italian men on Brier Hill loved to pose for a picture and when the Brier Hill Meat Market was on Federal Street.
“I grew up with all my Italian friends,” Charlie Olesky said.
Olesky was one of the few Polish boys on Brier Hill.
“I had my first piece of pizza from the Modarelli family, as a matter of fact, when I moved into the neighborhood,” he said. “My first piece of pizza I ever had — the brier hill pizza — and I’ve been eating it ever since.”
Just a mere two blocks from the festival, Brier Hill is quiet.
The days of pizza being cooked in an oven out back are long gone. The brick streets remain — and a few homes still line them — but there are also ghost steps lining many of the streets, leading to houses long gone.
“I was just through there yesterday and it’s a dump,” Schiavone said. “It’s terrible, absolutely terrible.”
“A lot of these guys — World War II and all of that during the depression — they formed a bond,” Naples said. “We don’t have that bond anymore. And I think a lot of people come here to reacquaint themselves with who they grew up with.”