First Look: Amighetti's Makes a Triumphant Return to the Hill

The new location is a perfect mix of old and new for the centenarian restaurant line

Mar 13, 2023 at 12:40 pm
click to enlarge Amighetti's at its new home on Southwest Avenue on the Hill.
Amighetti's at its new home on Southwest Avenue on the Hill.

One hundred and seven years after Amighetti's first opened on Daggett Avenue on the Hill, a brand new location of the iconic Italian sandwich shop has opened at Southwest and Macklind avenues, less than a mile away from that original spot.

The interior at 5390 Southwest Avenue is bright and modern looking but contains plenty of hints of both the space's and the restaurant's history. One wall is adorned with an L. Amighetti Bakery sign painted onto the brick, which itself dates back to around the turn of the 20th century. The floors are original, too.

Also on the "classic" side of the ledger is the Amighetti Special at the heart of the menu. The roast beef, salami and ham sandwich with special sauce is made the same as it was back in the 1960s when Marge Amighetti invented it.

Current Amighetti's owner Anthony Favazza credits Marge with turning Amighetti's into what it is today by convincing her husband, Louis Amighetti, who inherited the original bakery, to start selling sandwiches, the recipes for which Marge crafted herself.

"She told her husband that she wanted to name the sandwich the Amighetti Special," Favazza says. "He said, 'No, no, no. You can't name it that. Nobody can pronounce it.' And she said, 'Don't you worry. They're gonna know how to pronounce it.'"

Favazza adds, "It would be an understatement to say the business took off like a rocket."

Throughout the past half-century, there have been as many as 10 Amighetti's locations throughout the region under various owners and franchising arrangements. One on the Hill changed its name to Colino's amid a legal dispute that involved disagreements over whether or not stems should be removed from pepperoncini before being put on sandwiches. (Pepperoncini-gate received significant media coverage, with Post-Dispatch columnist Bill McClellan weighing in at the time, saying that the stems got to go.)

One of the most fascinating chapters of Amighetti's history took place in 1987 when Anheuser-Busch bought the restaurant's name with the hope of having Amighetti's locations all across the country operating as upscale Italian versions of the then-recently launched Saint Louis Bread Co. A-B opened the inaugural location downtown, near where Busch Stadium stood at the time.

click to enlarge A throwback to Amighetti's origins as a bakery opened in 1916.
A throwback to Amighetti's origins as a bakery opened in 1916.

However, the brewery had to sell the sandwich shop the following year. The reason? Favazza says the sandwiches were just too good.

"Amighetti's opens downtown," he says. "From the day they opened, they were packed. All day long. Every day. Every other restaurant downtown saw their sales take a dive."

Quickly, nearby eateries grew frustrated that they were faithfully selling Budweiser beer while losing money to the Anheuser-Busch-owned sandwich shop. Some of the restaurants started selling non-Anheuser-Busch beers. When a major hotel chain threatened to join the restaurants in their boycott, the brewery got out of the Amighetti's game.

Favazza's family has long been active on the Hill. His father and grandparents founded Favazza's on the Hill in 1978. He grew up in the family business but went his own way after high school, earning a law degree, working as a corporate lawyer in New York and starting several businesses.

In 2014, he went into a business meeting where he thought he was going to be pitched on the idea of buying a technology startup, but instead, the person he met with knew about his background and asked if he was interested in "buying an iconic Hill restaurant."

When he found out that it was Amighetti's for sale, Favazza says he almost fell out of his chair. Having grown up on the Hill, he had great respect for its century-long legacy. "In my mind, that was the best," he says.

There were many kinks to be worked out before the deal could be finalized as well as a pandemic to be gotten through.

click to enlarge Amighetti's on the Hill is a mix of classic and forward-thinking fare.
Amighetti's on the Hill is a mix of classic and forward-thinking fare.

But now Favazza operates the Amighetti's in Rock Hill and the brand new one on the Hill, a neighborhood whose history he clearly reveres but to whom he isn't at all beholden.

In addition to the Amighetti Special and numerous other classic Italian sandwiches, the menu boasts a wild salmon meatball sandwich and a Tuscan kale salad.

It comes with chickpeas and turkey, and extra-virgin olive oil. It is the perfect mix of old and new at a restaurant that's been a Hill mainstay for 100 years.

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