By Trish Muyco-Tobin
Ciao! There is no other place in St. Louis that’s more Italian than The Hill. From the emblematic red, white and green fire hydrants to the most concentrated cluster of honest-to-goodness Italian eateries, bakeries and grocers within its 620 acres, the neighborhood is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.
The neighborhood’s beginnings can be traced back to the early 1900s, when St. Louis’ expanding Italian immigrant population outgrew an area downtown known as Little Italy, and set their sights—quite literally—on higher ground just southwest of the city center. By mid-century, most Italians had moved to The Hill, making it the center of Italian-American culture in St. Louis.
Today, The Hill’s distinct character is reflected throughout the rows of tidy shotgun-style homes and colorful storefronts, and anchored by an imposing Romanesque church, St. Ambrose, that serves the neighborhood’s predominantly Catholic Italian residents.
October is National Italian American Heritage Month, and festivities on The Hill kick off with Ciao St. Louis’ Festa Italiana and Columbus Day Parade on Oct. 1, with 2017 marking the 150th anniversary of the parade in St. Louis. Following the parade, the celebration continues at Berra Park.
If you’ve been to the Columbus Day parade before, you’ll notice a few changes—all positive. For starters, there’ll be food trucks and live music along the parade route, including a performance by popular local crooner Tony Viviano. In addition, eateries like Gioia’s Deli and Amighetti’s that usually close on Sundays will be open for business on parade day, according to Rio Vitale, president of Ciao St. Louis, organizers of this year’s event.
Festa Italiana & Columbus Day Parade 150th Anniversary
Sunday, Oct. 1
Parade begins in front of Shaw Elementary School (Columbia Avenue and Edwards Street)
Parade ends at Berra Park (from Marconi Avenue to Daggett Avenue)
1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Festa Italiana at Berra Park
Food and dessert vendors, live and DJ entertainment, games
IN AND AROUND THE HILL:
Sure, it’s been singled out by the James Beard Foundation as an “American Classic,” making Gioia’s one of only five restaurants in the country to receive the coveted award this year. But for generations, St. Louisans have been waxing poetic about the glorious Hot Salami, made just like Charlie Gioia did when he opened the deli almost a century ago. We won’t judge if you consider Gioia’s Hot Salami sandwich a top answer to the ever-present “If you were stranded on a deserted island..?” question. Chances are, it would probably top our list, as well. gioiasdeli.com
Foodies and home cooks alike will find whatever their hearts desire for an Italian feast at this family-owned and -operated grocer. Browse the aisles for all sizes and shapes of pasta, hard-to-find authentic Italian Marzano tomatoes for marinara, and an impressive selection of wine to pair with anything and everything. Stop at the meat counter for DiGregorio’s made-from-scratch sausages (more than 30 different kinds!), as well as the deli for a dizzying array of Italian meats and cheeses. Have you ever been giddy about the frozen food aisle? You will be here, as you get a load of the selection: More than a dozen kinds of ravioli (veal and sage or lobster, anyone?) and other stuffed pasta, meatballs, pizza—even pizza dough—and sauces. Looking for olive oil in bulk? Look for the big drum behind the counter! digregoriofoods.com
This is definitely not your ordinary hotdog stand. From the colorful menu board to the tongue-in-cheek hotdog and mac & cheese selections (like the Macho Nacho dog topped with Doritos and the MacGyver layered pasta bowl), this eatery is quickly becoming just as famous as its namesake. Steve Ewing, the front man for The Urge, began the concept with a food cart, selling hot dogs to ravenous fans after his shows. Now, his original storefront on The Hill is one of three Steve’s Hotdogs locations in the city. steveshotdogsstl.com
Herbaria soap, which began as a kitchen experiment, now has a loyal following across all 50 states and around the world. The handcrafted, skin-friendly soaps come in 60-plus varieties, and are all-natural. Our favorite scents include: Pink Grapefruit, Triple Mint Oatmeal, Patchouli Orange, French Lavender and Evergreen. Ask for a free tour for an intoxicating behind-the-scenes experience. herbariasoap.com
We realize everyone has their favorite Italian place on The Hill—and this happens to be ours—but what makes Anthonino’s unique is the added bonus of Greek menu items, courtesy of the Scarato brothers’ Greek-Italian heritage. You’ll savor every bite of their Toasted Ravioli (Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives-approved), fresh pasta and ravioli made in-house, and Greek comfort foods like Dolmathes, Spanakopita and Saganaki (we order this one every time). But, wait! Did we tell you about the pizza? We can honestly say it’s the best—there, we just said it. Try the Ricotta or Margherita…you’re welcome! Plus, the cherry on top: bona fide great service. anthoninos.com