The country that brought the world Michelangelo, pizza, Lamborghinis, Joe Dimaggio, Frank Sinatra and Lady Gaga has had, until now, no place in LA to learn about that history and heritage. The time for the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles, which opened it’s doors at the end of August, has definitely come. Bring the kids to the newest free museum in town where they can celebrate all things Italian-American, from Watts Towers to Dean Martin. Benvenuto, IAMLA!

photo: Elizabeth Kate

The Italian American Museum of Los Angeles (IAMLA) is located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles in the historic Italian Hall, which was built in 1908 and is now the oldest remaining structure of what was the Little Italy of old Los Angeles. IAMLA celebrates the history of Italian-Americans, from the masses of families coming through Ellis Island to the Rat Pack glam of Frank Sinatra and modern icons like Lady Gaga.

iamla4photo: Elizabeth Kate

The IAMLA celebrates all things both Italian and American. From antique books and exquisite clothing to famous athletes and actors, the museum allows young ones who equate Italy with pizza to stroll back through the pages of history and learn about the journey Italians took immigrating to the far-off shores of the United States.

Hollywood exhibitphoto: Elizabeth Kate

With terrific educational exhibits, including interactive touch screens, you can easily scroll through an array of pivotal moments in history. The museum presents a comprehensive and fun view of Italian Americans and their contributions to America from the early days to the present. It’s impressive to see the incredible impact Italian Americans have made on the American footprint. They didn’t just import your kiddos favorite dinner, they gave rise to a whole host of stars and art.

Kids with stars in their eyes will love the Hollywood exhibit that shows the fabulous rise to fame of Lady Gaga, Dean Martin and Robert DeNiro. Little sluggers will be delighted with the stories of Tommy La Sorda and Joe DiMaggio. The good times and bad are illustrated with startling clarity creating a memorable experience for both small and tall. This museum is brand new and growing, with additional exhibits coming soon.

iamla5photo: Elizabeth Kate

The smaller size of the museum makes it a great stop as part of a downtown day, and ensures that kids won’t get bored.  It’s also an easy visit because all the important stuff is front and center. The bathrooms are clean and accessible with convenient drinking fountains. Parking is a cinch, with lots located directly across the street and all around the immediate vicinity.  And food is a skip away, though you’ll be dining on different Los Angeles staple food; Olvera Street and some fabulous Mexican eats lie right outside the door.  (And Phillipe The Original is just up the street if you’re looking for some French Dip flavored history!)

iamla3photo: Elizabeth Kate

If you crave Italian food, mark your calendars, because IAMLA is presenting their eighth annual “Taste of Italy” on October 1. With the participation of more than 50 local restaurants, live entertainment, fine wines, and celebrity chef demonstrations, it is guaranteed to be a fun-filled evening in a beautiful historic setting.

o-5photo: Aya T. via Yelp

It’s not just pizza, though the kids will dig all the cheesy offerings.  You can also sip Italian wines, tap your your toes to the rhythm of the Dry Martini Orchestra and catch some demonstrations like the soccer superstars pictured below. Tickets start at $50 and all of the proceeds benefit the IAMLA and the continued preservation efforts of the historic building.

o-4photo: Hungry A. via Yelp

You can purchase tickets in advance online.  “Taste of Italy” will take place on October 1 from 5-10 p.m., at 424 North Main Street.

The Italian American Museum is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. and admission is free (though donations are gratefully accepted).

Italian American Museum of Los Angeles
644 North Main St.
Downtown LA
213-485-8432
Online: iamla.org

Let’s talk Italian: where’s your favorite Italian eating spot in the city?  We love the singing waiters at Miceli’s, the old school service at Dan Tana’s and the kid pizzas at Pitfire Pizza. How about you?

—Elizabeth Kate