The Hill: St. Louis' Famous Italian Neighborhood

Berra Park on The Hill
Photo by Deborah O'Brien

The Hill Neighborhood in St. Louis is the city's traditional Italian American neighborhood. Known primarily for the dozens of fantastic Italian restaurants, the Hill is one of the city's most tightly-knit communities. Just as they did a century ago, families on the Hill greet each other warmly at church, local bakeries or while working on perfectly manicured front lawns. The Hill is still the Italian version of a Norman Rockwell neighborhood.

Location

The Hill is located south of Manchester Avenue, between Hampton Avenue on the west and Kingshighway Avenue on the east. Its southern border runs along Columbia and Southwest Avenues. Its name is due to its proximity to the highest point of the city, formerly named St. Louis Hill.

History

Settlement of what's now called "the Hill" began in the 1830's, but the area boomed later that century with the discovery of rich clay mines. The mines and other jobs attracted large numbers of Italian immigrants, and by the end of the nineteenth century, the area was a "Little Italy."

The small neighborhood has played a large role in the history of sports in America. One city block of the neighborhood is famous for hosting the boyhood homes of Baseball Hall of Famers Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola, as well as the home of Jack Buck as he began his broadcast career. The neighborhood also produced approximately half of the 1950 U.S. soccer team that upset top-ranked England in the World Cup.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the Hill area code has 17,717 residents. Approximately 75 percent of residents still claim to be of Italian descent.

Restaurants

The Hill is known nationally for its great Italian restaurants. It's often the dining destination of visiting celebrities, as well as the area locals take their out-of-town guests. Great places to try include:

  • Zia's - A favorite of both locals and out-of-town visitors in the know, Zia's serves classic Italian dishes. Portions are generous, the atmosphere is simple but warm and prices are fairly moderate.
  • Mama Campisi's - A Hill landmark for more than 60 years, the restaurant has a casual atmosphere (great for families) but still offers terrific Italian dishes at reasonable prices. Mama Campisi's claims to have invented "toasted ravioli."
  • Lorenzo's Trattoria - As a relatively new restaurant on the Hill, Lorenzo's can't rest on tradition. Actually, it does just the opposite, bringing modern twists to classic Italian dishes.
  • Rigazzi's - Best known for its "fishbowls" of beer, Rigazzi's offers everyday Italian dishes and pizza.
  • Adriana's - The Hill's own Yogi Berra's famous quote "no one goes there nowadays, it's too crowded," could easily be applied to Adriana's. Its classic Italian sandwiches and more always brings in a full lunch crowd.

Shopping

In addition to the dozens of restaurants, numerous Italian markets and bakeries, the Hill also has quite a few independent shops selling everything from cutlery to ceramics. Here are just three of the must-see shops on the Hill:

  • Girasole - Girasole sells a wide variety of Italian products, including ceramics, jewelry, handbags, beauty products, and books. Located at 2103 Marconi Avenue.
  • Bertarelli Cutlery - Although geared toward serving the restaurant business, Bertarelli can be exciting for anyone that loves to cook. Shop for new knives and other quality kitchen supplies or take your current knives in for sharpening. Located at 1927 Marconi Avenue.
  • Viviano's Market - Viviano's sells all kinds of Italian foods including olive oils, pastas,​ and spices, along with cheeses, desserts and prepared food items. This neighborhood grocery store has been business for more than 50 years. Located at 5139 Shaw Avenue.

    Walking Tour of the Neighborhood

    The best way to experience the Hill is on foot, walking from shop to market, stopping occasionally to get a cup of coffee, some gelato or a full lunch or dinner. A Walking Tour of the Hill outlines a step-by-step guide on exploring the Hill by foot.