Inside St. Louis

Spaghetteria Mamma Mia

An original water color of Spaghetteria Mamma Mia by local artist Marilynne Bradley.

Spaghetteria Mamma Mia



       St. Louis architectural history and Italian dining meld at the new/old Spaghetteria Mamma Mia. Vestiges of another time and place seem to warmly reach out to greet you as you arrive at Spaghetteria Mamma Mia on the NE corner of Vandeventer and Chouteau Avenues, just across the street from where Manchester Avenue ends its long far west county trek. If you’re one of the fans who follow the trail of the old Route 66 which started it’s Santa Monica to Chicago 2,400 mile journey in 1926, one of its paths passed right by this spot as the Mother Road once upon a yesteryear came over the Mississippi River on the Municipal (Free and later MacArthur) bridge as it took Chouteau and then switched to Manchester at this intersection. Today the subtle scent of aromatic Italian cookery wafts out over the brick paved parking lot in a Pied Piper’s call to lure you in for a traditional Italian lunch or dinner. It’s great to enjoy the aroma as this area was long, long known as being the worst smelling section of the City…but no more. That story from the those years gone by follows.






     The building in which the Spaghetteria Mamma Mia is housed is in a way a building of buildings as it’s unique exterior and interior is mostly made of architectural ornamentation and artifacts from places of the past. The well designed spacious parking lot is paved with over 40,000 bricks most of which came from the Hydraulic-Press Brick Company of St. Louis. Some of their old clay mines lie underground in the area east of S. Kingshighway and McRee Avenue. One such mine is partially under the building that was the last location of Kerpan’s Finnish and Russian Baths at the NE corner of that intersection. Many of the bricks in the lot came from the Indiana Paving Block Company of Brazil, Indiana. A large percentage of the pavers had been used in the former nearby stockyards.  The brick and terra-cotta facing of the restaurant’s main entrance was originally part of the building that now houses the Sheldon Galleries to the west of and connected to the Sheldon Concert Hall in the 3600 block of Washington Boulevard. This place was generally used as a garage for firms such as the Saunders System Car Rental Agency and the used car department of Paul Schulte Kaiser-Frazer-Henry J. The finials on top of the main entrance are from a Rosana apartment building on Bates east of Grand.










     The light standards in the lot had been on the Chouteau Avenue viaduct over the railroad tracks and the iron column at the corner was from a building on Lucas Avenue just east of 15th Street as are the columns on Vandeventer at the north end of the Spaghetteria building. In addition to the restaurant the structure houses the Bellon Wrecking and Salvage Company headed by Don Bellon whose daughter Carrie Bellon-Wappel is the proprietress of the Spaghetteria. The pink granite at the bottom of the front of Bellon’s on Vandeventer was from Famous-Barr Southtown, a building that should have never been torn down. It joined a sad list of lost St. Louis. The Bellon family had long been in the food business having operated a market, and AG store, at 1901 Montgomery Avenue in Old North St. Louis from 1931 to 1973 under the auspices of Mario (Mike) Bellon. After 30 years in wrecking and salvaging Don and daughter became food purveyors by opening the current location as a deli using the name Bellon’s Market. Since Bellon’s main business was wrecking and removal their 70,000+ square foot lot was crowded with oddities from various places such as the Granada, Rio, Shenandoah, Ritz, Varsity (which was remodeled as Vintage Vinyl) and Four Seasons theatres as well as several churches and many office buildings and homes.  







     Outside the restaurant you’ll find items of interest such as a cobblestone wall, cast iron panels, lions heads, great foundation stones form St. Henry’s church, stones, huge timbers, a City school yard fence, a spiral staircase, the front of a boiler that was in Mary Institute on Waterman (now The New City School), a portion of the façade of a building at 3200 Locust, a section of the stone front of an old house on McPherson Avenue, part of the carriage house from a Portland Place manse, an iron safe door from a manufacturing firm that had once been the Central Counter Co., a shoe manufacturing supplier on Shaw at Vandeventer, and many more unusual items. The Spaghetteria’s front doors came from the Fordyce House retreat off Christopher Road and the inner vestibule is made of doors and marble that had been in Washington University’s Wilson Hall.




     Inside nearly 99% of whatever you see or use has had a previous life such as a mirror from Teutenberg’s in the Arcade building, several large Bellon family photos, gates from one of the first Otis elevators, tables and flooring from old seminary walls, wood from the Cyrus Clemens house in Kirkwood, tile in the kitchen from 1415 Lucas Avenue, the back bar is from The Rathskellar of the Lennox Hotel, even the chairs, china, silver and kitchen equipment has been recycled. But rest assured the food is as fresh as fresh gets. On my last lunch trip with the Antique Warehouse’s Greg Rhomberg we took a trip to Italy via the bountiful Italian Buffet and it was a great value at 8 bucks including your non-alcoholic drink. This time there was Italian meatloaf in a rich brown gravy, a hearty chicken marsala, penne pasta in an olive oil, butter and garlic sauce (light on the garlic) with zucchini squash and oven dried tomatoes, there was Italian cauliflower, mixed green salad with mozzarella, Italian olive salad, cucumber salad, four bean salad, grilled eggplant, pizza bread with either bacon, chicken or cheese/garlic toppings, a rich tomato-Florentine soup and Dad’s cookies, fresh fruit or home-made brownies for dessert. Jeannie, who’s been in the food business for 25 years is on hand to assure quality and insure that items are replenished as needed.




     At lunch you could also opt for spaghetti with meatballs for $7 either with roasted garlic, chicken, spinach and oven dried tomatoes (Crema) or Prima Vera (Brodo) to which you could add chicken or sausage. For $9 there’s Spiedini served with a small green salad and pasta. Plus there are 4 sub sandwiches which come with Italian potato salad or pasta and cold sandwiches as well. Some of the dinner items are eggplant rotolini $6, Atlantic black mussels FraDiablo $7 as antipasto, three types of salads including baby spinach and argula with orange sections, artichoke, pine nuts and mozzarella $6. There are 4 regional Italian pizzas, one of which is sausage, red pepper and goat cheese with tomato sauce $12.Then there are a dozen styles of spaghetti representing sections of Italy. These are: Sicily, Catanzaro, Corsica, Bolonia, Verona, Lazio, Florence, Trento, Foggia, Perugia, Naples and Sadinia. Prices range from $10 to $13. And there’s chicken $13, beef $15 or eggplant and zucchini spiedini $12. And the homemade desserts might include strawberry Zablione, cannoli, etc.  




     Spaghetteria Mamma Mia offers a good midday break from work as well as a good choice before the Fox or Powell Hall. You come up with the reasons…then go. The Spaghetteria is in the center of town and even though this confluence of three major thoroughfares was for decades a relatively busy business and industrial area, it’s growth was somewhat stunted by its proximity to the St. Louis Independent Packing Company, which was a division of the Swift Meat Company and its Mayrose Quality Meat Packing division.  For almost a century, the largest population, albeit temporary, of the acreage were the cows and hogs that were shipped there to meet their maker at the slaughterhouses just behind the buildings that lined the east side of Vandeventer north of Chouteau. These buildings, much like a movie-set façade, kept passersby from seeing the tumultuous activity of the yards; but the babel of the doomed beasts and the constant almost overpowering stench of the yards and processing plants covered the area.






     When southwesterly winds prevailed, occasional and welcome relief to the atrocious “ aroma,” which was all the worse in summer, emanated from the sweet smelling tobacco products being manufactured just a few blocks southwest on Folsom and Park Avenues at the behemoth Liggett & Meyers Tobacco Company’s multi-block complex east of Tower Grove Avenue. Many of these huge St. Louis red brick structures remain as well as a dark gray hexagonal smokestack and a cream-colored tile- block stack emblazoned with the name Star Tobacco, which was one of their products. Terra-cotta “star” logos can still be found on some buildings but Liggett and Meyers long ago vacated the premises. Unfortunately in a long battle with Liggett & Meyers’ sweet smell of tobacco, a harsh, heavy reek often seeped from the George H. Packwood, Jr. Soap manufacturing company, makers of Pax powdered soap. This factory was at the southwest corner of Vandeventer and Tower Grove Avenues. Over many years the H&K (Hanley & Kinsella) Coffee Company on Tower Grove, the Rose Coffee Company on Laclede and Star Coffee on Lawton lent their assistance in cleansing the air by roasting coffee beans. From the 1920s, other pleasant smells were provided by the White Baking Company at 4015 Papin Avenue on the west side of Vandeventer. White billed itself as a home service bakery as they delivered their full range of baked goods by delivery trucks. The trucks were white as were the deliverymen’s uniforms. The driver-salesman would announce his arrival by blowing a high-pitched shrill whistle. Similar fine fragrances escaped the confines of the now closed three-story Kroger supermarket bakery at the SE corner of Spring and Chouteau Avenues. But truth be told, the pleasing scent from the Kroger and White bakeries. Liggett and Meyers tobacco and the coffee roasters were no match for the stockyards.  





     Spaghetteria Mamma Mia is located in St. Louis, Missouri.  Click here for directions.

Click here for an image gallery of Spaghetteria Mamma Mia


Written by: Ron (Johnny Rabbitt) Elz of KMOX and Channel  5’s Show Me St. Louis.


Contact Information

Spaghetteria Mamma Mia

904 South Vandeventer Blvd
St. Louis, Missouri 63110
(314) 531-9100

Hours of Operation

Tuesday - Friday

Lunch 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Dinner 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.

Saturday 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.

Closed Sunday & Monday

 All items available for carry out

Easy access for all

Visa, MasterCard & American Express



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