lorusso's cucina chef-owner rich lorusso photo by carmen troesser

Rich LoRusso recalls a childhood on The Hill

The childhood home of Rich LoRusso, owner of LoRusso’s Cucina, was a half block from Ruggeri’s Restaurant.

“Back in the day, it was the St. Louis hotspot,” he says. “It was the neighborhood of Mickey Garagiola, Joe Garagiola, Yogi Berra. All those guys worked there as waiters from time to time. There was just a super buzz in that area. As boys, we’d go up there and hold the door for customers, and they’d give us a nickel. Then we’d get an order of french fries and sit across the street and watch.”

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“People not from The Hill see the value of being on The Hill,” he says, looking in the direction of the new Piazza Imo, scheduled to be completed this year equipped with fountains and imported Italian marble. “They’re buying properties and tearing them down and building new ones. People are recognizing the value of the neighborhood and they’re coming.”

Sitting in the dining room at LoRusso’s, he talks of his grandmother and eats panzanella salad made with tomatoes from his garden.

“She would bake her bread and trade it for produce, and that was just how you did things. It’s a close community. And the church, the church was the center of everything. It was our universe.” 

He puts down his fork, grabs a spoon and digs into a half-cut watermelon. “The memories here just built you.”

Carmen Troesser is a longtime contributing photographer and writer to Sauce Magazine. 

Tags : People, Restaurants