When the early Italians came to Seattle, they most often congregated around others from the same village or region. That way, they could speak their own dialect, eat familiar foods, and access a network of friends and relatives who could help them find housing or a job.
In Seattle, that tended to be north Rainier Valley and north Beacon Hill. Called Garlic Gulch for obvious reasons, it was home to nearly 3,500 Italians in 1910.
Walk down those streets a century ago and you’d find Italian grocery stores, barbershop, bakery, pharmacy, produce stands, even a macaroni factory. Many businesses and brands that got their start in Garlic Gulch were still in business a century later — Oberto’s, Big John’s PFI, Isernio Sausages, Merlino Foods, to name a handful
But starting in the 1940s, the Italian neighborhood suffered one blow after another, from highway expansion to an upswing in crime to an economic recession. Change had come to Garlic Gulch. The vibrant community never recovered.