Italian Heritage Tours

(It's pronounced "I-talian")

Oct 6, 2004 at 4:00 am
St. Louis is a town that retains its history better than most. Not just architecturally or in books, but in the very social fabric of our lives. We hold on to place names long after the places are gone, we remember slights and injustices long after the initial sting has passed (curse you, Don Denkinger!), and then there's that whole high-school thing. This love of the past generates great pride in who we are and where we come from. Neighborhoods and the people who live in them retain a special power in St. Louis as a result, holding a place of pride in people's lives.

Out of the many and various neighborhoods that make up the greater metro area, arguably the most historic is the Hill. Located between Kingshighway Boulevard and Hampton Avenue and just brushing up against I-44, this Italian-American neighborhood is a veritable cornucopia of unique St. Louis history. From Elizabeth Street's storied past as the birthplace of Joe Garagiola, Yogi Berra and Jack Buck, to the Hill kids who made up the 1950 U.S. World Cup soccer team that toppled England, to its current status as one of the country's classic Italian-American enclaves (no less an authority than celebrity chef Mario Batali has thrown his weight behind the Hill's greatness), the Hill has seen and helped create more history than any other part of town. The National Italian American Foundation honors the Hill's past and present this month with free guided walking tours of the neighborhood on Tuesday, October 12, and Saturday, October 30. The two-hour tours begin at 10 a.m. both days and, this being St. Louis, your guide will probably tell you a couple stories about Yogi's and Joe's antics when they were both kids and not so famous. To register for the tour, go to and sign up electronically on the events page. -- Paul Friswold

Please Cheese Me

SAT 10/9

You love cheese. Mice love cheese, too...right? Actually, mice prefer grass seed, peanut butter and Ivory soap (yes, soap!) over a delicious aged Cheddar -- which means you can get your snack on with even more cheese at the second annual Cheesefest. The Lynch Street Bistro (1031 Lynch Street; 314-772-5777) hosts the cheese-o-rama that benefits Shriners Hospital for Children. Starting at 5 p.m., indulge in wine and cheese samples, a silent auction, interactive mouse races (go, Jerry!) and the swinging sounds of the Pennsylvania Slim Blues Band. At 9 p.m. DJ Silver helps you shake your Brie. To purchase tickets ($25 to $30) or for more information, call 314-446-2025. -- Amy Helms

Clang, Clang, Clang Went the House Tour

We're going to make a leap and say that when Judy Garland starred in Meet Me in St. Louis, she never dreamed that St. Louisans would be celebrating the film 60 years later. But why not? Judy was great, and the "Meet Me in Compton Heights" house tour (starting at Grand Boulevard between Russell Boulevard and Shenandoah Avenue) is great as well. For $15 to $18, you can 1904-antique trolley around the tony neighborhood and tromp through thirteen homes, including the original Grand Bavarian Room from the 1904 World's Fair. Aha! Finally an event with a World's Fair trifecta! The tour runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (October 9 and 10). Call MetroTix at 314-534-1111 for tickets. -- Alison Sieloff

Attractive Art

Local minicomic artist Ted May teams up with local mobile art gallery Blindspot (actually a white Ford minivan) for his new show I Give Up. The concept is simple: May's comics are printed on magnets, which are then affixed to the minivan. Minicomics meet minivan! When you see the van on its voyage through St. Louis, you are invited to select a magnet from the hull and keep it on your fridge, or file cabinets, or that plate in your skull. If you're the impatient type and you just can't wait to see May's work, head over to the Des Lee Gallery (1627 Washington Avenue; 314-621-8735), where his art hangs in The Rubber Frame comics show along with work by R. Crumb, Chris Ware and Gary Panter. -- Paul Friswold