ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Best places to visit in St. Louis- The Italian "Hill" neighborhood

Updated on February 19, 2014

Italian restaurants on the Hill, St. Louis

Source

The"Hill" is the Home of Yogi Berra

These homes are surrounded by flowers, gardens and rod iron fences that give the area beauty and grace.
These homes are surrounded by flowers, gardens and rod iron fences that give the area beauty and grace.

Little Italy in the heart of St. Louis

When you come to St. Louis and explore a bit, you quickly find that it has had a long history defined by a continual and multi-faceted integration of many different cultures woven into one beautiful city. St. Louis is truly one of the best examples of how the "melting pot" worked and continues to work in America's ever changing cultural landscape. But St. Louis lays claim to one truly unique area; lovingly referred to as "the Hill", it is an unspoiled gem of a neighborhood which has somehow managed to retain it's Italian culture, ethnicity and traditions without closing itself off , while simultaneously protecting itself from the onslaught of change, commercialism, and urban decay. Italian immigrants pouring into the city in the 19th century created a place that reminded them of home, complete with the style of homes, church, markets, restaurants, and recreation they were familiar with in Italy. You will be hard pressed to find another neighborhood left like this one, not only in St. Louis, but in America. The Hill is an example of what makes the core of a city; part of the St. Louis makeup which has stood the test of time, retained it's unique traditions and lifestyle, and become an invaluable contributor of the cultural and traditional landscape of St. Louis today.

Little Italy has produced some big names

As far as neighborhoods go, this understated web of sidewalks, little brick roads and small houses can lay claim to having a pretty big impact on American sports over the years. It's Italian roots are evident in the sights, smells and feel of this little area of St. Louis. Two of baseball's greatest;: Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola are from the same block on the Hill. And in 1950, an American soccer team , poorly favored against an English team, won the World Cup. Over half of the members on that team were from St. Louis' Little Italy- The Hill.




Viviano's Grocery-That's Italian!

Bottles of Imported olive oils line the shelves of Viviano's on the Hill
Bottles of Imported olive oils line the shelves of Viviano's on the Hill

Ameghetti's bakery and cafe on the corner across from St. Ambrose church and the bronze statue " The Immigrants"

Mama and Papa Viviano

The Viviano's themselves grace the labels of their own sauces-
The Viviano's themselves grace the labels of their own sauces-
Italian wine galore, each with individual, handwritten descriptions
Italian wine galore, each with individual, handwritten descriptions
My double shot espresso, two lumps of sugar. The real thing, here, my friends.
My double shot espresso, two lumps of sugar. The real thing, here, my friends.

Espresso the Italian way!

Source

Favorite places in St. Louis

There is a lot to explore in St. Louis. It is much more like an amalgam of different areas and neighborhoods,each defined by it's own history, rather than a city with one identity. But the one place I find myself drawn back to over the years is the Italian "Hill". It feels like a secret that only a few people know about, a place where you step back in time and experience things the way they've been experienced for the past 100 years or so. When I go to the Hill I like to walk around a bit first; down the streets of little "shotgun" brick homes, porches brimming with terra cotta pots of flowers, yards enclosed by rod iron fences, little statues of the virgin Mary gracing small and tidy gardens.

Inevitably you will pass someone working in their yard, who will wave and say "hello" and be happy to have a conversation with you about the latest weather, or St. Ambrose church just down the brick road. The Italian Catholic St. Ambrose is a beautiful centerpiece of the Hill, which holds it's spirituality, it's community and it's history.

Ameghettis Italian deli and bakery.

As you continue down the tree lined sidewalk, you will pass the Italian bakery and sandwich shop, Ameghetti's. A bit of advice - come hungry ! And if you go right at noon, be prepared to wait a bit and you may have to take your sandwich to go if all the tables are taken- not a huge place. And they are down to business here about their food and service-, be ready with your order and don't dilly dally. But , you want freshly baked Italian bread,my friend? Deli meats and cheeses they slice as they make your sandwich? Ham, pastrami, turkey, prosciutto, provolone, cheddar.....mmm. It doesn't get any better than this.

Viviano's- 50 years and going, "The authentic" Italian grocer.

After my stop at the deli, I try to get a little walking in..... So my next destination is Viviano's, an Italian grocer if there ever was one. Walking in, you will first notice the heavy scent of garlic, then next you will walk by the stack of Italian/American newspapers- all in Italian, but they are fun to pick up anyway. As you walk the back of the store among the myriad packages of pastas, you will notice that they have a wall dedicated to the history of the Viviano family and their integral part in the sustenance of the Hill's residents over the past 50 plus years. One day when I stopped in, I had just finished reading and looking at all of the pictures on that back wall, and as I proceeded to the cash register, noticed that I seemed to be looking at the same man as the one in the photo over 50 years ago, only he couldn't have been because he was the same age as the man in the photo. I still don't know how this man was related, but the Viviano's are definitely present and still running the show here, and not in name only! Peruse the wall of Italian wines, this is wonderfully gratifying and fun to try to top off your Italian meal with a genuine Italian wine that perfectly complements the fresh flavors. Look around, take your time. I know an Italian family who will go nowhere else for their steady supply of salami (apparently the best around) Breads, Italian sausages, herbs, pastas, beautiful sauces- you name it. If it's Italian, Viviano's has got it. In fact, they supply much of N. Americas Italian foods to restaurants and grocers around the country.

Freshly roasted Italian espresso? The Hill's Shaws Coffee Co.

The place you will find me on a rainy day with a book? Whether I am looking around the hill or just wanting a place to have a great espresso, I go to Shaw's coffee, which is just a couple of doors down from Viviano's. This is the old bank, complete with a private little comfortable area in the bank vault for quiet conversation. There are also tables, window seats, and soft seating scattered around the shop. And on certain days, you can even watch them roast the coffee in the huge roaster sitting in the middle of the room. But the best thing about this place is the coffee. My favorite in St. Louis. And I mean the basic bean and espresso shot. These guys know what they are doing. I always order a double shot with a lump of sugar, and let me tell you, if an espresso shop doesn't know what their doing, a double shot of espresso will reveal it. This place has consistently good espresso ; beautiful crema, exceptional flavor, and knowledgeable Batista's- so you know any drink you order will be quality.

But one of my favorite things to do at the Hill is just sit there with my coffee on a rainy day looking out at the brick streets and old brick buildings. There are beautiful green enamel bricks inlayed around doors and windows which I have never seen anywhere else before. Street lights, kids walking down the street with a bag of groceries, dogs waiting for their owners at the entrance of the shop. I always meet someone there too. The last time I went I was with my father, and we met an Italian transplanted from the Hill to New York(evident in the accent) He was back home to visit his mother who still resides in the Hill district, but who had recently been unwell. He gave my father and I a little tour of St. Ambrose church and told us about his childhood growing up here. What a treasure! Where does that happen anymore? It happens at the Hill. Spend a day or an afternoon and see what special sights, sounds, tastes and experiences await you.


The Hill in St. Louis

A markerThe Hill, St. Louis -
The Hill, St Louis, MO, USA
get directions

Little Italy in St. Louis- The Hill

The very authentic (and favorite Italian restaurant)Charlie Gitto's on the Hill

My favorite Italian restaurant  on the Hill
My favorite Italian restaurant on the Hill | Source

Front doors of St. Ambrose Church, the heart of the Hill

Best Italian food you can buy outside Italy! Three of my favorite eateries

The best part of the Hill? Well, there are a lot of "best parts", but the Hill is known and most famous for it's fabulous Italian food and restauraunts.

Fresh Baked- Ameghetti's Italian bakery and deli- oh my.

As you walk down past St. Ambrose Church, you will pass the Italian bakery and sandwich shop, Ameghetti's. This is one place you need to come hungry to, and fully experience. A bit of advice, if you go right at noon, be prepared to wait a bit and you may have to take your sandwich to go if all the tables are taken- not a huge place. And they are down to business here about their food and service-, be ready with your order and don't dilly dally. But , you want freshly baked italian bread,my friend? Deli meats and cheeses they slice as they make your sandwich? Ham, pastrami, turkey, prescioutto, provalone, cheddar.....mmm. It doesn't get any better than this.

Zia's

Zia's is a great little restaurant that comes highly recommended by most. Not too fancy, just great food and great service. If you don't make reservations on a weekend, plan to be waiting awhile. Although the Hill doesn't have a lot of tourist around most days, the restaurants can get crowded in the evenings! 

Charlie Gitto's- this place is awesome

The first time my husband and I stopped into Charlie Gitto's, we sat down, and after a few minutes we saw the owner- a perfect Sicilian looking gentlement- walking around the room asking folks about their food and striking up conversations with everyone. It's an intimate little place, dark and with atmosphere to boot- Anyway, as "Charlie" made his way around to us and found out we had just moved to St. Louis and were visiting the Hill for the first time, he told us to follow him and proceeded to take us in the back, through the kitchen, introduced us to the chefs, staff, and told us a little bit about the history of the place. Wow- what an experience! And just the most genuine, informal and interesting conversation with this very knowledgeable, friendly and very Italian host. A very fitting and very memorable introduction to a truly extraordinary little area.



Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • freecampingaussie profile image

      freecampingaussie 4 years ago from Southern Spain

      Looks like an interesting place to visit when in America - enyoyed your hub especially the photos - voting up ! . I loved Italy while there !

    Click to Rate This Article