Inside St. Louis

Giuseppe's Ristorante

An original water color of Giuseppe's Ristorante by local artist Marilynne Bradley.

Giuseppe's Ristorante



       “Eat At Joe’s” could have been the slogan of Giuseppe’s restaurant had Mr. Joe,  Joe Pugliese, used the Anglicized version of his name. In 1974 he opened his place, with a strong emphasis on pizza in what had been the long running hamburger joint called the Chex Grill at 4141 S. Grand. A name says a lot about a place and the name Giuseppe’s instantly identifies the eatery as being Italian.   There’s quite a back story as to how Giuseppe’s came to be with a connection that loosely goes back to 1910 when a small cafe opened at 10th and Franklin, in the Little Italy section of north downtown St. Louis. Owners and names came and went until ‘25 when the spot was taken over by one Rosaria (Rosie) Stallone and his wife Bertha who lived at 1221 Branch Street. They called it Rosario’s and that name stuck ‘til a man who loved the aroma of roses would buy the business.






     The rose lover was one Jasper Bonventre who since the twenties was operating the   Eden Importing Company, a grocery at 1025 Franklin. When he’d leave the aura of his Spanish olives, cheeses and olive oil for lunch he was a regular at Rosario’s. According to St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Hune Duval, a dollar at the cafe would get you a good Italian meal and a beer for 90 cents leaving a dime for the tip. By the end of the ‘30s Rosario’s was rundown with broken screens, hordes of flies and even the stove was missing a leg. The leg was replaced by a stack of bricks so the ravioli or whatever was simmering on the burners wouldn’t slide to the floor. Jasper, and others, such as St. Louis Star-Times writer Jack Rice would gripe about the condition of the deteriorating establishment. Rosario suggested to Jack that if he didn’t like it he could buy the place, but since all the newspaperman could muster was his weekly salary of $15 a week and 10 streetcar tokens he’d have to stay a customer rather than be the owner.










     But in ‘42 Jasper, whose parents had owned a restaurant in Palermo, Sicily, took Rosario up on his offer to sell, and over a three Martini lunch the deal was sealed. Jasper never again had a Martini. At that point Rosario’s became part of history and it became Rose’s. Even though Jasper vowed off Martinis, Rose’s became widely known as having the best Martinis in town. Mr. Bonventre and wife Marietta took control of the ladles, pots, 5 tables and 5 booths and started concocting a legend that would run for 33 years. By the time Rose’s shuttered in June ’74 it could seat 160 “friends.” This same philosophy of “friends” rather than “customers” is still followed at Giuseppe’s today. It’s been the same at Tony’s since 1946 and at Kemoll’s since 1927. In the ‘40s Rose’s was a place of red and white checked tablecloths, candles held in Chianti bottles in wicker baskets and simpler fare such as spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, breaded veal cutlet sandwiches and boiled ravioli. No toasted ravioli until the late ‘40s after its accidental creation…not at Rose’s, but at Oldani’s Steak House (now Mama Campisi’s) On the Hill.  







     When the place was first named Rose’s, Jasper didn’t put an apostrophe in the word as he didn’t want people to think it was owned by someone named Rose. Jasper and wife would soon move from 4132 Washington Avenue to the second floor of Rose’s while downstairs the authentico Italian recipes, handed down from his mother, were becoming increasingly alluring to the hungry and thirsty merchants and residents of that then densely populated and busy section of downtown. Rose’s was expanded to handle the crowds who came for lunch, dinner and pizza until the wee hours. The bar which was also bustling day and night sported a mural above the back bar of four horses pulling a chariot. It disappeared in ’74, as did Rose’s, when the city pulled the plug on the remaining buildings along Franklin, then renamed Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, to make way for the Cervantes Convention Center. The last to go were Rose’s, Melitio’s seafood, Greyhound and the Italo-American Importing Company.




     When it was announced that Rose’s would close, Giuseppe Pugliese, after having worked as chef at Rose’s for almost 20 years, decided he needed to protect his family’s future and rented the Chex Grill space on S. Grand at Meramec for a pizza place. He continued to work at Rose’s mornings and afternoons until the end, while running his 4 table pizza parlor at night. After the “Una Veglia,” an Italian wake, Giuseppe, at a very favorable price, got the equipment and décor he needed from the kitchen and dining rooms including the mahogany panels long admired at Rose’s. They’re still in place in the main Giuseppe’s dining room.  After a period of mourning that an era had ended and that the food and ambiance were to be lost forever, Rose’s fans were excited to know that all the recipes were going south to be recreated at Giuseppe’s. Mr. Joe was going to name his place Rose’s but since he opened while Rose’s was still in operation he named it for himself rather than cause confusion and raise any objections. The official name was originally Giuseppe’s formerly from Rose’s.




     Giuseppe and Antonia, who at times is called Antoinette, were childhood sweethearts who lived across the street from each other in Campobello di Mazara, Province of Trapani in Sicily. They married in 1955 and three months later Giuseppe came to America, the land of opportunity, to stay with his sister and brother-in-law. In a short time he landed a job, really a home, as a cook at Rose’s. After a lot of hard work and saving, he brought Antonia here and they settled in an apartment at 1604 N. 17th St. in 1958. Antonia started working for Curlee Clothes making men’s suits and remained there until ’74. When they opened the restaurant she joined him in the kitchen for decades as they carried on the tradition of Rosario’s and Rose’s with a staff of dedicated professionals. It’s a shame space does not allow us to include the names of the people of the past who toiled, in many cases for 10 to 30 years at both locations, as they were so instrumental in helping guide the courses of these venerable institutions. Daughters Melodie and Kim and Melodie’s husband Tony Nicastro would eventually work regularly at Giuseppe’s, where Melodie’s first taste of the restaurant business came when she was 8 years old and helping to clear away the old fixtures from the Chex Grill. The highlight of her tasks was when she was removing stools from in front of the counter she discovered change that over the years had rolled under the stool bases.




     In about 2002 Giuseppe decided it was time to sell and before long, former neighbor and current customer Forrest Miller and his family not only bought the entire business and building but struck a deal with Mr. Joe and Antonia that they would stay on running the kitchen for a year while the extended Miller family learned the business from the kitchen to the dining room and office. Currently, the day to day operations of Giuseppe’s are handled by Forrest’s sons-in-law Mark Manfrede and Eric Stockmann. Forrest who grew up just down the street at 4225a S. Grand Boulevard was the perfect person to orchestrate this transition as he not only knew the owners and the restaurant as a neighbor, friend and customer but for some 30 years has been operating the Royal Orleans Banquet Center on Telegraph Road.






     Rather than make changes, Forrest immediately decided that the most important things they as new owners/operators could do was keep the food and the staff the same. Chef Carlo has been there 30 years, Chef Jerry for 12, and they still use the same tried and true time-tested and tasted recipes that date back almost 70 years.  If you had a favorite dish from Rose’s in 1945 or Giuseppe’s in 1975 it will still be exactly the same today. And servers such as Debbie, Crystal and Leo are still taking care of customers…friends. There have been updates in the physical property and technical operation of the restaurant such as their first computer system, a new phone system, taking out plate glass windows and replacing them with solid walls covered with a mural of Naples in which Mr. Joe and Antonia are pictured on a balcony. The mural and decorative painting was created by Allison Larkins. To offer their clientele more off street parking the new owners bought and razed the first house west of Grand on the south side of Meramec which provides space for 40 cars.










     For myriad reasons Giuseppe’s is now only open Monday through Friday from 11 to 2 for lunch. They are no longer open at night or the weekend. During the evening the restaurant is available for private events, though they do open at night for some holiday periods. For more information you might refer to their website  5 years ago they embarked on what has become a very successful catering business called Giuseppe’s Catering Company that not only offers the traditional Giuseppe’s Italian fare, but menus for Mexican, BBQ, Oriental and Ballpark style food. Every dish is prepared to order, not in bulk, at Giuseppe’s, it’s all freshly made for the restaurant and for catering. If you want frozen food, you won’t get it from Giuseppe’s. For catering information call 314 581 7040. They have a 4 color 28 page booklet on their services that’s the best I’ve ever seen.









     If you’d like a great lunch in some of the most beautiful dining rooms around…with impeccable service, you can’t beat Giuseppe’s. The ambiance such as white linen tablecloths and red cloth napkins, appropriate soothing background music and dishes that have become traditions combine for an unbeatable experience. I know Highway 40 is closed, but you can easily get there from 44 or 55. It’s worth the short trip…plus Ted Drewes is just a half block away on Grand.






     There are 62 items on the menu and each one is a winner. You might consider the specials such as beef stew on Tuesday, Boiled beef in Rosamarina soup on Wednesday, Baked Italian Hamburger on Thursday and baked White Fish in Creole Sauce on Friday. The specials, other than the fish run $8.95, the white fish is $10.95.They also have the best Sautéed Chicken Livers and Onions anywhere, and if you want a real treat have the server ask Chef Carlo to make you my favorite item; Spaghetti ala Caruso; the tenor’s favorite. The pasta is topped with a dark rich Madeira wine sauce made with chicken livers, onions and mushrooms. As far as I know Carlo is the only chef in town with the authentic recipe.





     I could go on and on, but you really need to try the Giuseppe’s Italian Salad with sweet Bermuda onions or the freshly prepared minestrone. There are wonderful stories about these dishes and others…but, darn it, we just don’t have room to tell them. Make Giuseppe’s your next destination dining experience. It’ll bring you back for more.




     Giuseppe's Ristorante is located in St. Louis, Missouri.  Click here for directions.

Click here for an image gallery of Giuseppe's Ristorante


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


Contact Information

Giuseppe’s Ristorante

4141 South Grand Avenue
St. Louis, Missouri 63118
(314) 832-3779

Hours of Operation

Catering: (314) 581-7040
Lunch  11 a.m. - 2 p.m.

 All items available for carry out

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