Italian-Americans and banquet halls - why the connection?

In my hometown, there’s a very large Italian-American population. There were also a lot of freestanding banquet halld – places where someone could host a wedding reception or party – most owned by Italian-Americans.

I did some reasearch on the retail environment of various cities in the Cleveland area. In one suburb that has a very large Italian-American population, nearly a third of all commercial space under roof was in “party centers” - local vernacular for “banquet halls.”

In other cities where I’ve lived, there aren’t many banquet halls; weddings, receptions, anniversary parties, and the like are usually held in banquet rooms at hotels, not freestanding banquet centers. Those cities did’t have a large Italian-American population, though.

So, why the correlation between Italian-Americans and the presence of banquet halls?

I’m an Italian-American ex-Clevelander. Three important factors are:

  1. Large, extended families who like to get together for weddings, funerals, holidays, anniversaries, and what have ya.

  2. Nobody having a house big enough for a family party, due to economic factors.

Those two factors could well apply to many of the Eastern/Southern European ethnic groups in Cleveland, not just Italians. But there is a third factor,

  1. The heavy involvement of Italian-Americans in the restaurant, bakery and catering businesses, which means Uncle Frank may live in a two-bedroom house on E. 143rd, but the basement of his restaurant is big enough for everyone.

Factor 3 has two causes - one, Italian immigrants were on the whole less educated and skilled than other groups (and still are), so they tended to gravitate to family-run businesses that capitalized on what they could do, which was cook spaghetti and pizza 18 hours a day for no money, and two, the fact that the general population likes Italian food more than Polish or Hungarian food, so there is a big demand for it.