Favazza’s on The Hill, a mainstay in St. Louis’ generations-old geographical pocket of Italian food and culture, has provided classic Italian fare to St. Louisans for nearly 40 years. Owned by brothers John and Tony Favazza, the restaurant was founded by their father, the late Vito Favazza; their mother, Ellen; and Tony in 1978, and has been a family affair from day one. “I walked in the back door and started washing dishes,” John recalls of their restaurant debut. Sister Joni worked in the front of house in those early days, and Vito, Ellen and Tony oversaw operations.
The restaurant started with 75 seats in the front dining room and bar area and has found the need for various expansions over the next decades. Today, the restaurant, attached banquet room, and famed patio and garden area seat more than 530 guests, which has expanded the family’s capacity not only for regular diners but also for accommodating special events. “We grew into hosting 400 to 450 private events a year,” John says. “Some nights, four or five of our rooms are rehearsal dinners.” The patio and garden open-air pavilion is the most popular requested reservation area once weather begins to warm up, but in the cooler months, the enclosed space is heated with an oversized fireplace for a unique dining experience. The patio area is also available for rent as an event space.
In addition to the event spaces attached to the main building, Favazza’s also owns and operates Rose of the Hill, a banquet facility and event center that seats 500 – between the two spaces, Favazza’s can seat up to 1,000 guests, both for dinner and special events, at a time, making it a favorite for wedding receptions.
Favazza’s menu began with Ellen’s food and recipes, as well as what was popular in The Hill at the time. Over the decades, other chefs and cooks have left their mark on Favazza’s menu, including John and Willie Watts, who were cooks at Tony’s Downtown. “They took some of their training at Tony’s and brought a few things here to help us, and we blended it together,” John says. “Ever since then, my brother Tony and I have guided the menu, adding items over the years to keep it updated and popular, and we grow the business that way.”
Classic entrées have endured the test of time, most notably Steak Mudega – a lightly breaded and charbroiled 8-ounce filet mignon, topped with cheese and served in a white sauce with prosciutto and mushrooms – and Sicilian chicken, which features a chicken breast dredged in Italian bread crumbs and charbroiled to toasty perfection, topped with extra-virgin olive oil, garlic and a fresh lemon wedge. Other popular menu items include tortellini alla panna, cannelloni, homemade lasagna, Favazza family-favorite veal saltimbocca and a variety of seafood pastas, another Favazza’s specialty. “Everything is as fresh as we can possibly get it,” John says. “We have guys who cut vegetables all day long here.” The restaurant also offers vegetarian and vegan items, plus a gluten-free menu.
Perhaps even more popular than old-world Italian fare is Favazza’s legendary garlic bread. “The biggest thing we’ve ever done here – my dad said we should serve some kind of hot bread when people walk in,” John says, which is how Favazza’s garlic bread had its start. A portion of the kitchen staff is dedicated to solely making the complimentary garlic bread for dinner guests. John has conversed with several patrons who have expressed that “We really like the food, but we come here for the garlic bread.”
With their father’s passing in 2012, John and Tony are passionate about continuing the legacy he created by inspiring not only generations of their own family to invest in the restaurant but also generations of their staff and guests. Tony’s son Mark is a general manager at the restaurant, and John’s daughter Lindsay works with catering and at the bar. “Over the years, almost everybody in our family has worked here, whether bussing tables and washing dishes or working banquets or parties,” John says. Many of the waitstaff and kitchen staff have been in the game for well over a decade, as well – one gentleman began working at Favazza’s a year after they opened and is still there today.
As far as guests go, John has seen generations of families proliferate and grow. “We’re on the third or fourth generation of customers coming in – people come in, they start dating, their families come in, we do the rehearsal or wedding, and they have a child or two, then we’re doing anniversaries, their children’s graduation parties, their children’s weddings,” John says. Several family loyalties run so deep that even family funerals are hosted at Favazza’s.
John credits the restaurant’s loyal following and longevity to their one, simple, in-house rule: Take care of our guests.
Favazza’s on The Hill, 5201 Southwest Ave., The Hill, St. Louis, Missouri, 314.772.4454, favazzas.com