Amighetti’s announced Thursday the “temporary closing” of its restaurant and bakery at the corner of Wilson and Marconi Avenues on the Hill. For now, the only place you can get the famed Amighetti Special sandwich is at the restaurant’s Rock Hill location.
Also on Thursday, the former Amighetti’s on the Hill reopened as Colino’s Cafe and Bakery. If you order an Amighetti Special there, the staff won’t correct you, Colino’s owner says. They know what you want.
The changes mean that for the first time since 1916, there is no Amighetti’s on the Hill. The development is the result of competing visions of Amighetti’s tradition as well as an unusual ownership structure that treated the Hill location as a sort of loose franchise.
Dominic Consolino operated Amighetti’s on the Hill from 2014 until this week. He did not, however, own the Amighetti’s brand or its recipes. Those belong to Anthony Favazza, who purchased them and the Rock Hill location from a separate party in 2016.
“I bought this brand because I love the brand,” Favazza said in a statement texted to a Post-Dispatch reporter a few hours after a phone interview. “I have so much respect for what Amighetti’s was and what I know it should be. Amighetti’s was on life support when I bought it.”
A few months after his purchase, Favazza overhauled the menu at the Rock Hill location. Alongside traditional sandwiches and pastas, he introduced more contemporary dishes: a Tuscan kale salad, a meatball made with wild salmon and spinach.
Favazza wanted to introduce the changes to Amighetti’s on the Hill, but he found Consolino resistant.
“I didn’t think that people came to the Hill for a kale salad,” Consolino said.
Consolino, whose family used to operate a market on the Hill, saw himself as a protector of the Amighetti’s tradition.
“Customers come in here for a certain quality,” Consolino said. “The brand was built on that quality. And some of the changes would affect that. And I just was not going to do that.”
Favazza said, “I was honestly trying to work with him and eventually realized he wasn’t trying to work with me.”
The issue appears to hinge on an interpretation of the license under which Consolino operated Amighetti’s on the Hill. From Favazza’s viewpoint, he ultimately can stipulate how the restaurant is run.
Consolino said, “The agreement is I was to abide by the standards when I bought it” in 2014, two years before Favazza purchased the brand.
Peperoncini brought this to a head. Since childhood, Favazza said, he has disliked finding peperoncini with the stems attached inside a sandwich. He mandated that all peperoncini on Amighetti’s sandwiches have the stems removed.
Favazza said he told Consolino to forget about the kale salad, the salmon meatball and other changes. If the Hill location could get the stemless peperoncini right, he and Consolino could talk about taking the next step together.
However, during visits to audit the peperoncini progress at Amighetti’s on the Hill, Favazza said he found stems roughly 90% of the time.
“That was a pretty clear indication that this was never going to work,” Favazza said.
Consolino, who personally dislikes peppers, says removing the stems from peperoncini produces juice, which turns the sandwich soggy.
“The fact is, if you’re selling a great sandwich for 50 years, changing it is not a great idea, especially when that sandwich is half of your sales,” he said.
Favazza said he made a generous offer to buy Amighetti’s outright. Consolino said the offer “wasn’t very good.” Favazza then sent Consolino an ultimatum: sell it to him, sell it to someone Favazza approved, bring Favazza in to run it, or close.
Consolino instead sold it to his wife, Cathy, who opened it Thursday as Colino’s.
A first-time restaurateur, Cathy Consolino is a fifth-degree black-belt martial artist who for 15 years owned C.C.’s Elite Training System, a martial-arts school.
“You ought to see her cut a sandwich,” her husband said.
She has changed a few names on the menu — the Amighetti Special is a federally registered trademark — and a few ingredients, like the spread on their version of the special sandwich.
Favazza, who is close to Marge Amighetti, inventor of the Amighetti Special, said in Thursday’s announcement of the restaurant change that she had given him her “full support.”
He said the situation called to mind Amighetti’s slogan for her sandwich: “‘Often imitated, never duplicated.’ The Consolinos want to become the next knockoff Amighetti Special.”
As for the Hill, Favazza said, “We’ll have another Amighetti’s open on the Hill as soon as I possibly can.”