Like most major cities, Chicago experienced a large influx of Italian immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Italian immigrant population went from 1,357 in 1880 to a peak of 74,000 in 1930. They proliferated throughout the metro area, but the focus was around Grant Street on the Near West Side. By the 1930s, the neighborhood was home to a host of Italian restaurants, grocery stores, and bakeries.
Little Italy reached its peak in the 1960s, before the creation of the nearby University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) campus. The campus dispersed raised land values and dispersed the population. Today its proximity to the Loop and the university have led to rapid gentrification. Few Italians remain, but the neighborhood is still a hub for Italian restaurants and other Italian goods.
There's not much reason to visit Little Italy, unless its to enjoy a meal at one of the many great restaurants or some gelato.