The Ultimate Tourist’s Guide for Exploring Little Italy

The Ultimate Tourist’s Guide for Exploring Little Italy

Ottawa is one of the most diverse cities that you can visit. Everywhere you look, there are people of different races walking down its streets and enjoying the capital’s many offerings. 

Now one particular part of Ottawa that I find interesting is Little Italy. This place is home to a ton of Italian migrants, and it feels like you are in Italy itself when you visit this charming part of the capital. 

An Overview of Little Italy

Little Italy is the social and cultural hub of Ottawa’s Italian community. Around 1900, Italian immigrants began to colonize it.

Following the burning at a modest Murray Street chapel in 1913, the establishment of St. Anthony of Padua Church on the junction of Booth Street and Gladstone Avenue solidified the immigrants’ ties to the neighborhood. 

A second wave of Italian settlers joined populations of Ukrainian and Polish migrants in the area between World Wars I and II.

Over the past few years, this neighborhood has become a melting pot for European and Asian immigrants, with a particular influx of Chinese and Vietnamese residents. It’s hosted several events that have become a core part of its identity. 

One such event is the annual Italian Week, a tradition that began in the year 1975. This commemorates Italian culture in Ottawa and features plenty of exciting activities and delicious food.

Another notable event in the area happened in 2018 when the district’s south end saw the completion of the Claridge Icon. It’s now considered to be Ottawa’s tallest tower and stands proudly at the intersection of Preston and Carling.

For its present layout, the neighborhood is situated in Centretown West and is surrounded by a network of streets and essential services. 

To the north lies Albert Street, with the south being marked by Carling Avenue. The western part is bordered by the O-Train Trillium Line, and to the east, you’ll find Bronson Avenue. 

As for its main commercial district, you can head on over to Preston Street to see some of its more commercial buildings.

One thing worth noting is Little Italy’s close proximity to Chinatown. It has a business sector on Somerset Street, and you can easily travel to the area if you wish to explore it.

What You Can Do In Little Italy

Little Italy is a vibrant neighborhood with plenty of great things to do. Here are a few activities you can do when you are exploring the area. 

Take a walk around the neighborhood and admire the murals and sculptures.

Little Italy serves as an open canvas for creativity, with vibrant murals telling stories of the neighborhood’s history, cultural heritage, and the lives of its residents. 

Each artwork reflects the diverse voices and perspectives that shape this community, resulting in a colorful celebration of its identity.

The area is a harmonious blend of cultures, evident in the murals that seamlessly fuse Italian influences with the broader Canadian identity. 

This unique artistic fusion is a visual feast that resonates through the streets, showcasing the cultural diversity that defines Little Italy.

To add to that, these paintings serve as living historical narratives, providing a visual journey through the development of Little Italy. 

From the early immigrant experiences to the neighborhood’s growth and evolution, the art on display paints a vivid picture of the community’s past.

Little Italy is also a vibrant hub for local artists, and the outdoor galleries created by the paintings offer these talents a platform to share their work with the community. 

The result is a dynamic and ever-evolving tapestry of creativity that adds a distinctive character to the neighborhood.

In addition to the murals, the area boasts a collection of sculptures that act as landmarks and meeting points. 

Tucked away in cozy corners or proudly displayed in public spaces, these sculptures add a three-dimensional aspect to the artistic landscape, further enhancing the overall aesthetic.

Dine at authentic Italian restaurants.

As an area populated by Italian migrants, Little Italy presents you with an opportunity to taste what real Italian food is like. 

Restaurants here meticulously craft dishes that capture the essence of Italian cuisine, whether through traditional family recipes or inventive spins on classic favorites. The culinary offerings are a genuine reflection of Italy’s diverse and rich food culture.

Quality is paramount in Italian cuisine, and Little Italy’s restaurants are no exception. 

They are known for sourcing fresh, high-quality ingredients, ensuring that each dish bursts with flavor. Everything is carefully chosen, like the tomatoes in the pasta sauce and the olive oil drizzled over a salad. 

The culinary landscape in Little Italy offers a diverse menu, catering to various tastes and preferences.

Whether you’re a fan of hearty pasta dishes, wood-fired pizzas, seafood delights, or delectable desserts, the restaurants here have something for every palate. 

Many Little Italy restos are helmed by chefs who bring a genuine love for the cuisine to the table, ensuring that every bite is a testament to the culinary expertise that defines Italian gastronomy.

Weather permitting, you can have the option to dine al fresco at some of the restos here. 

Being able to sit on a charming patio, savoring authentic Italian flavors while enjoying the buzz of the neighborhood, adds an extra layer of delight to the dining experience.

Visit St. Anthony of Padua’s Church. 

Visit St. Anthony of Padua's Church

The architectural beauty of St. Anthony of Padua’s Church is undeniable. Its design harmoniously blends traditional elements with a timeless aesthetic, creating a serene and visually captivating space. 

From intricate details to soaring arches and beautiful stained glass windows, the church’s structure contributes significantly to the overall charm of the area.

This house of God’s role isn’t purely religious, though, as it serves as a heritage hub too. It hosts plenty of events, concerts, and gatherings that celebrate both holy traditions and the rich cultural diversity of Little Italy.

St. Anthony of Padua’s Church interior

You gain a unique opportunity to connect with the community and immerse yourself in the lively spirit that defines this neighborhood by attending one of these events.

With a rich history intertwined with the development of Little Italy, St. Anthony of Padua’s Church also serves as a living chronicle. 

Plaques, artifacts, and memorial displays within its walls tell the story of the building and its pivotal role in shaping the community over the years.

For those seeking a moment of tranquility and reflection, the building serves as a spiritual oasis. Regardless of religious affiliation, St. Anthony of Padua’s Church provides a peaceful retreat from the daily hustle and bustle. 

The atmosphere inside encourages quiet contemplation, fostering a sense of inner peace.

Go to Dow’s Lake.

Dow’s Lake is a picturesque place that is conveniently close to Little Italy. The lake’s tranquil waters, surrounded by lush greenery and scenic walking paths, create a serene oasis that contrasts beautifully with the urban energy of the neighborhood.

It’s a haven for those seeking a peaceful escape without venturing too far from the vibrant streets.

This accessibility allows locals and visitors alike to seamlessly transition from the lively districts to the tranquil waterfront, creating a well-rounded experience within a short stroll.

Dow’s Lake is not a seasonal attraction; it boasts year-round appeal. In warmer months, it comes alive with paddleboats, kayaks, and vibrant floral displays, offering a perfect setting for a leisurely afternoon. 

In the winter, the frozen waters become a charming outdoor skating rink, providing an experience like no other surrounded by the winter landscape.

Little Italy, including Dow’s Lake, also plays a pivotal role during Ottawa’s annual Tulip Festival. Its shores become a breathtaking canvas of colorful tulip displays, attracting locals and tourists alike. 

It’s a time when Dow’s Lake transforms into a vibrant hub, celebrating the beauty of spring and the cultural significance of the tulip.

Attend the Italian Week Festival. 

Little Italy’s Italian Week Festival brings an explosion of color, culture, and community spirit to the already lively streets. This eclectic event draws residents and visitors alike into a joyous celebration of Italian heritage.

What sets the Italian Week Festival apart is its ability to seamlessly blend tradition with modernity. 

The occasion pays homage to Italy’s cultural roots through captivating performances of traditional music and dance, creating an atmosphere that transports attendees to the heart of Italy itself. 

Yet, it also embraces contemporary elements, ensuring that the event remains dynamic and relevant.

The festival is one heck of a feast, offering a tantalizing array of authentic Italian cuisine that elevates the neighborhood’s culinary reputation. 

Here, you can taste traditional pasta dishes and delectable pastries. Needless to say, the streets become a gastronomic haven where locals and visitors can indulge in the rich flavors of Italy.

Beyond its cultural showcase, the Italian Week Festival is a melting pot of artistic expression. The district comes alive with vibrant displays of art, adding an extra layer of creativity to the festivities. 

Local artists often contribute to the visual tapestry, turning Little Italy into an open-air gallery that beautifully complements the celebratory mood.

The festival is a family-friendly affair, welcoming people of all ages to partake in the joyous atmosphere. Children engage in activities, families share meals at outdoor tables, and the streets buzz with a sense of unity and shared celebration. 

Go to a concert or show at the Gladstone Theatre.

The Gladstone Theatre boasts a central location that enhances its appeal. Its proximity to the vibrant streets allows you to seamlessly blend a night of entertainment with the lively atmosphere of the neighborhood.

The auditorium is renowned for its commitment to a diverse and high-quality arts program. It caters to all kinds of tastes and features a curated selection of performances such as live music, theater productions, and comedy shows.

The intimate setting of the Gladstone Theatre further enhances the overall experience. The smaller venue size creates an immersive atmosphere, allowing you to feel more connected to the performers. 

This helps to foster a closer connection between the audience and the artistry unfolding on stage, giving you a memorable and personal experience.

Artistic offerings aren’t the only things that the Gladstone Theatre contributes to the neighborhood’s cultural tapestry. It often collaborates with local artists, musicians, and theater groups, showcasing the talent that thrives within Little Italy. 

If you attend a performance, it becomes a way for you to support and celebrate the creative endeavors of the community.

To add to that, the historic charm of the Gladstone Theatre adds another layer of allure. The venue’s rich history is palpable, creating an ambiance that transports you to a bygone era while still providing modern amenities. 

It’s a delightful blend of old-world charm and contemporary cultural expression that makes the experience truly unique.

Take a cooking class.

Take a cooking class

The cooking classes offered in Little Italy are a direct portal to the authentic flavors of Italy. These are led by skilled chefs, whose lessons often focus on traditional recipes, allowing participants to grasp the essence of Italian cuisine. 

You will learn everything you need to create authentic Italian food here, such as pasta-making techniques and mastering the art of risotto. 

What truly distinguishes these sessions is the emphasis on fresh, high-quality ingredients. Little Italy is known for its commitment to culinary excellence, and the cooking classes mirror this dedication. 

Participants usually have the chance to work with locally sourced produce, ensuring that every dish crafted in the class is a testament to the neighborhood’s commitment to quality.

Not only that but the classes are often conducted in charming settings, contributing to the overall ambiance. 

It could take place in a cozy kitchen studio or an outdoor culinary event, allowing you to soak in the warmth and authenticity of Little Italy’s food scene.

Relax in Piazza Dante.

Relax in Piazza Dante

Piazza Dante serves as a tranquil retreat amidst the lively energy of the area. Thanks to Its central location, it’s a pretty convenient and accessible spot for a break. 

The design of the piazza itself is a testament to Little Italy’s commitment to creating inviting public spaces. 

With well-maintained greenery, comfortable seating, and often a focal point like a fountain or sculpture, the plaza gives you a beautiful space to rest after a long day of touring.

One of the notable features of the area is its role as a social hub. The open-air setting encourages a sense of community, making it a popular gathering spot for residents. 

It’s not uncommon to witness impromptu conversations, friendly exchanges, and even occasional events or performances that further enhance the communal vibe of the plaza.

Piazza Dante

The park is also strategically surrounded by Little Italy’s culinary delights. Many cafes and eateries spill out onto the edges of Piazza Dante, providing an ideal setting for al fresco dining. 

This proximity to delectable food and beverages adds an extra layer of enjoyment to your relaxation time, allowing you to savor the flavors of the neighborhood in a charming outdoor backdrop.

Not only that, but the piazza often serves as a backdrop for local events and festivals. If you attend these gatherings, you’ll be able to experience the dynamic and festive side of Little Italy right in the heart of the community.

Where to Eat in Little Italy

Little Italy is home to plenty of great restaurants. Here are a few recommendations that will liven up your tastebuds! 

Trattoria Caffè Italia


Address: 254 Preston St, Ottawa, ON K1R 7R4, Canada

Contact number: 613-236-1081

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Operating hours: 

  • Tuesday-Thursday: 11:30 AM–10 PM
  • Friday 11:30 AM–11:00 PM
  • Saturday: 3:00 PM–11:00 PM

Must-try dishes: 

  • Linguine Pescatore
  • Lamb with Rapini and Portobello mushroom
  • Insalate di Mare

Price: $$ – Average

The menu at Trattoria Caffè Italia is a celebration of real Italian food, and the Linguine Pescatore is one of the standout dishes as it feels like tasting the very essence of the Mediterranean itself. 

This dish is a seafood lover’s dream. It features some shrimp, mussels, carefully cooked linguine, and a tasty tomato-based sauce. 

When you mix these together, you get a harmonious combination of tastes that takes you straight to the coast of Italy.

The Lamb with Rapini and Portobello mushroom is another must-try for people who like filling meals. 

The tenderness of the meat paired with the earthly taste of portobello mushrooms, and rapini that is slightly bitter all come together to make a blend of flavors that embodies the heartiness of traditional Italian cuisine.

Then you have the Insalate di Mare, a colorful seafood salad made with fresh shrimp, calamari, and mussels. It’s a light and refreshing choice that doesn’t skimp on taste. 

The lemon, olive oil, and herbs in the salad bring out the natural flavors of the fish, making this dish a great choice for people who want something lighter but still filling.

La Roma


Address: 430 Preston St, Ottawa, ON K1S 4N4, Canada

Contact number: 613-234-8244

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Operating hours: 

  • Tuesday-Wednesday: 5:00 PM–9:00 PM
  • Thursday: 11:30 AM–2:30 PM, 5:00–9:00 PM
  • Friday: 11:30 AM–2:30 PM, 5:00 PM–10:00 PM
  • Saturday: 5:00–10:00 PM

Must-try dishes: 

  • Sous Vide Costoletta di Maiale
  • Gnocchi in Meat Sauce
  • Red Wine Braised Beef Ravioli, Leek, and Mushroom Brodo

Price: $$ – Average

The diverse menu at La Roma, featuring a balance of traditional and innovative dishes, ensures there’s something for every palate. 

The use of high-quality ingredients, attention to detail in preparation, and a commitment to delivering an authentic taste of Italy make this establishment a standout.

The Sous Vide Costoletta di Maiale is a prime example of La Roma’s unwavering goal to deliver culinary excellence. The sous vide cooking method ensures the pork cutlet is cooked to perfection, resulting in a tender and flavorful dish. 

The meticulous preparation showcases the restaurant’s dedication to providing a dining experience that goes beyond the ordinary. Paired with sides that complement the richness of the pork, this dish is a testament to La Roma’s culinary expertise.

Gnocchi in Meat Sauce at La Roma is a classic Italian comfort food that reflects the restaurant’s commitment to preserving traditional flavors. The pillowy soft gnocchi, bathed in a rich and savory meat sauce, creates a comforting and indulgent dish. 

It’s a favorite among locals for its simplicity and the depth of flavors that harken back to the heart of Italian home cooking.

The Red Wine Braised Beef Ravioli with Leek and Mushroom Brodo is a culinary masterpiece that showcases La Roma’s innovation while staying true to Italian food roots. 

The ravioli, filled with succulent braised beef, is elevated by the rich and aromatic broth infused with red wine, leeks, and mushrooms. This dish is a harmonious blend of textures and flavors, offering a sophisticated taste of Italy in every bite.

EVOO Greek Kitchen


Address: 50 Rideau St, Ottawa, ON K1N 9J7, Canada

Contact number: 613-691-1812 

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Operating hours: 

  • Tuesday-Thursday: 11:30 AM–2:30 PM, 5–10 PM
  • Friday: 11:30 AM–2:30 PM, 5:00–11:00 PM
  • Saturday: 5:00–11:00 PM
  • Sunday: 12:00–10:00 PM

Must-try dishes: 

  • Loukaniko
  • Chopped Chicken
  • Halloumi

Price: $$ – Average

Not only are the meals at EVOO Greek Kitchen unique but the restaurant as a whole is dedicated to creating a real and immersive Greek dining experience. 

One standout dish that embodies the authenticity of Greek flavors is the Souvlaki. The Souvlaki at EVOO Greek Kitchen is a grilled meat skewer, and one version of this classic is the Loukaniko. 

Many times, a mix of seasoned pork or lamb is used to make the tasty Greek sausage loukaniko. 

The expertly grilled Loukaniko at EVOO is a true representation of traditional Greek street food. Its flavor and aroma will take you back to the busy markets of Greece.

The Chopped Chicken at EVOO Greek Kitchen is a great choice for people who want something lighter but still filling. 

The chicken is seasoned perfectly after being grilled to perfection, making a dish that is both healthy and full of taste. 

Then there’s the grilled Halloumi, with its unique texture and salty flavor. It offers a delightful contrast and is often served with fresh accompaniments, making it a favorite among locals and visitors alike.

The Prescott


Address: 379 Preston St, Ottawa, ON K1S 4N1, Canada

Contact number: 613-232-4217

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Operating hours: 

  • Monday-Wednesday, Sunday: 11:00 AM–11:00 PM
  • Thursday: 11:00 AM–12:00 AM
  • Friday-Saturday: 11:00 AM–2:00 AM

Must-try dishes: 

  • The Cadillac
  • Dewie Pizza
  • Prescott Sliders

Price: $$ – Average 

The Prescott in Little Italy holds a special place among locals as a go-to spot for a satisfying and diverse dining experience.

First on the menu is one of its best sellers, The Cadillac. This is a hearty meatball sandwich with melted brick cheese smothered in Prescott’s signature meat sauce.

Its savory taste, along with the creaminess of the cheese is simply incredible, and Prescott’s meat sauce amplifies the flavor to extreme levels. This is what makes THe Cadillac such a hit with both locals and tourists. 

If you’re in the mood for pizza, the Dewie Pizza is a must-try. It’s made up of pepperoni, bacon, green peppers, mushrooms, onions, and green or black olives.

It’s another one of Prescott’s best sellers, and it’s not hard to see, or rather, taste why. All the ingredients come together to form an incredible symphony of flavors, ranging from savory, tangy, and earthy. 

Every bite you take has you wanting more, and you’ll be even more addicted thanks to its distinctive crunchy crust. 

For those who enjoy variety and shareable bites, the Prescott Sliders are an excellent choice. These are 3 of Prescott’s famous meatballs served with its signature meat sauce on the side and homemade coleslaw. 

It’s a great dish for sharing, and you simply can’t go wrong with the delicious meatballs. 

Now let’s talk about the ambiance of the restaurant. This is another reason why people love to visit the location so much.

It’s inviting and comfortable, making it suitable for various occasions, from casual lunches to lively evenings out with friends. 

The laid-back yet vibrant atmosphere adds to the overall appeal, creating a space where locals feel welcome and visitors can enjoy the neighborhood’s dynamic spirit.

Umbrella Burger


Address: 186 Preston St, Ottawa, ON K1R 7P9, Canada

Contact number: 613-230-1973

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Operating hours:

  • Monday-Sunday: 11:30 AM–11:00 PM

Must-try dishes: 

  • Umbrella Double Burger
  • Chicken Sandwich
  • Chicken Tenders

Price: $$ – Average

Umbrella Burger has earned its place as a local favorite, celebrated for its classic yet delectable offerings.

The star of the show at Umbrella is undoubtedly the Umbrella Double Burger. This towering creation is a meat dream, featuring two succulent patties, cheese, and a medley of toppings, all sandwiched between perfectly toasted buns. 

The attention to detail in crafting this sandwich results in a flavor-packed experience that resonates with those who appreciate the art of a well-executed classic ground round.

If you want an alternative to beef, the chicken sandwich is a great choice you can’t go wrong with.

The crispy and flavorful chicken, often accompanied by fresh lettuce, tomatoes, and a signature sauce offers a satisfying option for those with a penchant for poultry. 

The careful preparation of the chicken reflects the restaurant’s commitment to providing diverse and mouthwatering menu options.

Umbrella Burger further showcases its versatility with the Chicken Tenders. These golden-brown delights boast a crunchy exterior and tender interior, providing a delightful twist on a classic favorite. 

Whether enjoyed as a snack or part of a larger meal, the chicken tenders are known for their satisfying crunch and juicy goodness.

But what truly sets this restaurant apart is its dedication to using quality ingredients. Locally sourced produce and thoughtfully chosen proteins contribute to the overall freshness and flavor of each dish. 

Where to Stay in Little Italy

While there aren’t many hotels located exactly in Little Italy, there are plenty of nearby options for you to choose from. I’ve listed some of the best that you can go to depending on your budget.

The Westin Ottawa


Address: 11 Colonel By Dr, Ottawa, ON K1N 9H4, Canada

Contact number: 613-560-7000

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Price: $$$ – Expensive

The Westin Ottawa’s central location offers convenient access to various attractions in the city, including Little Italy. 

While not situated within the neighborhood, it gives you a strategic base for exploring the diverse cultural offerings and culinary delights that Little Italy has to offer. 

The hotel’s proximity to key landmarks and neighborhoods ensures that you can easily immerse yourself in the local scene.

The Westin Ottawa is renowned for its commitment to comfort and luxury. The rooms are designed with modern elegance, featuring amenities that prioritize relaxation and well-being. 

Whether you’re in town for business or leisure, the hotel provides a serene and rejuvenating atmosphere, allowing you to unwind after a day of exploring the city.

One of the standout features of The Westin brand is the Heavenly Bed, and this hotel is no exception. The plush bedding ensures a restful night’s sleep, contributing to a refreshed and energized start to your day. 

The emphasis on a good night’s sleep reflects The Westin’s dedication to the overall well-being of its guests.

Westin’s dining options further enhance the guest experience. Both casual diners and more sophisticated palettes will appreciate the range of choices to choose from. 

I would personally recommend exploring the hotel’s dining offerings, but also venturing into Little Italy to savor the authentic Italian cuisine that the neighborhood is known for.

Moreover, The Westin Ottawa often provides stunning views of the cityscape, including the picturesque Rideau Canal and Parliament Hill

This visual treat adds an extra layer to your stay, allowing you to appreciate the beauty of Ottawa right from the comfort of your accommodation.

ARC The Hotel


Address: 140 Slater St., Ottawa, ON K1P 5H6, Canada

Contact number: 800-699-2516

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Price: $$ – Average

ARC The Hotel is a fantastic accommodation choice in Ottawa, providing an elegant and comfortable stay that complements the vibrant atmosphere of the city, including the nearby Little Italy neighborhood. 

The boutique nature of ARC The Hotel sets it apart. With a focus on personalized service and attention to detail, this facility offers a more intimate and tailored experience. 

The ambiance is sophisticated yet welcoming, making you feel like you’re staying in a stylish home. 

The rooms at ARC The Hotel are elegantly appointed, emphasizing both comfort and modern design. You can find luxurious bedding to sleek furnishings, each one giving attention to detail that contributes to a refined and relaxing environment.

Its dining options further enhance the guest experience. ARC Lounge, the on-site restaurant and bar, offers a modern setting where guests can savor carefully crafted dishes and signature cocktails. 

While exploring Little Italy’s culinary scene is a must, having a sophisticated dining option within the facility adds convenience and an additional touch of luxury.

Service excellence is a hallmark of ARC The Hotel. You can count on the staff to provide recommendations for looking around Little Italy or attending to specific requests,

In terms of amenities, ARC The Hotel often features fitness facilities and wellness offerings. After a day of exploring Little Italy or Ottawa’s other attractions, guests can unwind and rejuvenate, enhancing the overall well-being aspect of their stay.

Saintlo Jail Hostel


Address: 75 Nicholas St, Ottawa, ON K1N 7B9, Canada

Contact number: 613-235-2595

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Price: $ – Affordable

Saintlo Jail Hostel stands out for its unique historical setting. Housed in a former jail, the inn seamlessly blends the charm of the past with modern amenities.

Situated in Little Italy, you have the chance to immerse yourself in the neighborhood’s lively atmosphere, characterized by charming streets, authentic Italian eateries, and cultural hotspots. 

Saintlo Jail Hostel often prioritizes a communal and social ambiance. With shared dormitories and common areas, it fosters a sense of community among travelers. 

This makes it an excellent choice for those who enjoy meeting fellow adventurers, sharing stories, and gaining insights from like-minded individuals.

Additionally, the establishment frequently hosts events and activities, providing you with opportunities to engage with both the local community and fellow travelers. 

This not only enhances the overall stay but also allows you to tap into the cultural richness of Little Italy and Ottawa.

In terms of amenities, Saintlo Jail Hostel typically provides essential facilities such as a communal kitchen, free Wi-Fi, and common areas for socializing.