Did toasted ravioli really start at Mama's on The Hill in Saint Louis?
The Hill in Saint Louis is known for many things: classy restaurants, close-knit neighborhoods, shotgun-style houses, small mom 'n pop shops and good people. But perhaps the most striking feature of the community is the pride of their Italian heritage.
From the fire hydrants painted red, white, and green to the Italian restaurants, the influence of "America's other Little Italy," as praised by Saveur Magazine, is clear to see. The 50 square blocks of the city is one of the most stable, endearing, and welcoming areas of the Saint Louis area. Celebrity chef Mario Batali, of The Food Network, describes The Hill as one of the top "Little Italy" neighborhoods in the country.
One of the staples of The Hill is Mama's on The Hill, perhaps one of the most famous and historic restaurants in Saint Louis. Home of the toasted ravioli, Mama's has become a landmark of The Hill and its Italian neighborhoods.
Birth of an instant classic
In the early 1940s, a chef by the name of Fritz accidently dropped an order of ravioli into hot oil instead of hot water. Quickly realizing his mistake, the raviolis were removed but not discarded. Mickey Garagiola, older brother of Major League Baseball Hall-of-Famer Joe Garagiola, was actually at the bar during the mishap and was the first to taste the accidental treat. With some seasoning, everyone agreed that toasted ravioli was a hit and there to stay. Word quickly spread and soon other restaurants in the area started making their own versions. Toasted ravioli exploded in popularity and was soon served nationwide, although its home is on The Hill.
Did toasted ravioli really start at Mama's in Saint Louis or is it just one of those myths? Mickey firmly says, "I'll bet my house on it."
Originally known as Oldani's, the restaurant dates back over sixty years. In 1982, Mama Campisi herself renamed and reopened the restaurant, solidifying a local favorite into Saint Louis history. John and Frank Campisi, Mama's sons, took over the restaurant and proudly serviced The Hill for nearly two decades. In 2005, however, they had to close up shop due to personal reasons.
The grand reopening
Realizing the importance of the restaurant to the community, Lance and Andrea Ervin quickly bought the establishment and started immediately on its reopening. "Growing up in South Saint Louis, we both understood how historic and loved Mama's is by the people of The Hill," Lance Ervin said. Not wanting to waste any time or disturb its significance, they reopened Mama's on The Hill in February 2006 to great fanfare of the residents and businesses of The Hill. "Mama's had become such a fixture of the people here that we didn't know what to do when it closed. You're so used to enjoying lunch with your friends, or having dinner with the family, that it becomes second nature," local real estate agent Amy Shildmyer found.
Andrea Ervin, new owner of the restaurant is determined. "We just hope to continue the tradition of wonderful food and service that Mama Campisi's has provided for so long. We hope to become an even stronger part of the community."