The Hill is known for white tablecloth restaurants, frozen fishbowls, the first toasted ravioli, a couple of baseball legends and Volpi salami.
Still in dispute after decades is whether the first t-ravs emerged from a deep fryer at Angelo’s Pasta House or Oldani’s Restaurant. Accepted as facts are that the St. Louis neighborhood is a center of fine dining, that Rigazzi’s is the place for beer served in enormous chilled glasses, that Yogi and Joe grew up on Elizabeth Avenue and that Volpi Foods is renowned for salami and other cured Italian meats.
But change is happening.
Volpi Salumeria, at 5258 Daggett Avenue since 1902, is closed for a $250,000 remodeling, its first since the 1980s. When it reopens about March 23, the store will have a new interior and a refreshed exterior. Unchanged will be Volpi’s salami, prosciutto, mortadella, pancetta and other products.
Most of Volpi’s sales are outside St. Louis through distribution deals nationwide. Regardless, its corner store on the Hill remains important despite its minuscolo effect on the company’s bottom line.
Lorenza Pasetti, Volpi Foods president, said she valued product opinions and comments store shoppers offer. Such interaction is possible only at a store, she added.
“We keep it because it’s important for us to stay close to our customers,” Pasetti said.
She is a daughter of Armando Pasetti, who was a nephew of John Volpi, the Italian immigrant from Milan who founded the company in 1902 and later summoned his 14-year-old Italian relative to work with him in St. Louis.
Volpi began his business by making cacciatore—a dried, pocket-sized salami he sold to the area’s clay miners. The company grew steadily and in 2005 opened a production plant on Northrup Avenue, three blocks north of the store on Daggett. Volpi Foods now employs about 180 people.
The store’s redesign is by JEMA Studio, a St. Louis architecture firm. Jon McKee, a JEMA architect, said the result would be a modern look respectful of the place where Volpi and Armando Pasetti worked the counter.
McKee said interior demolition was underway to carry out the redesign plans that began taking shape last summer.
“The idea is not to go back to the way it looked but to bring it up to modern times,” he said.
An interior wall will be moved to provide more selling space. New store cases and coolers will be installed as well as porcelain floor tiles. Walls will get white tiles and murals of Volpi’s founders. A new custom walnut counter with seating will go next to the front windows.
Outside, the front door will get a glass vestibule. Stone sills will make way for larger glass windows next to the walnut counter inside. The green awning will disappear and a new “blade” sign will go over the front door. McKee said the exterior might get a fresh coat of white paint.
Safely put away for now is a prized store artifact: an autographed photo of Frank Sinatra.
Days before he performed in October 1994 at what was then the Kiel Center downtown, Pasettti got a call from a Sinatra assistant who offered a trade: tickets to see the Chairman of the Board in exchange for Volpi salami and prosciutto.
Sinatra got his Volpi meats, and Pasetti got 11 concert ticktets for family members and employees. The signed photo came as a bonus. Pasetti said it would return to its place of honor in the remodeled store.
“It will definitely come back,” she said. “It took me a long time to earn that photo.”