The Pasta House co-founder J. Kim Tucci passes away at 78

A St. Louis culinary icon has passed away. J. Kim Tucci, co-founder of The Pasta House Co., died on Monday, March 25. He was 78.

Tucci co-founded The Pasta House Co. in 1974 with Joe Fresta and John Ferrera. The Italian-American eatery proved wildly successful; today there are more 15 locations in Illinois and Missouri.

The Pasta House Co. announced Tucci’s death on Facebook yesterday, March 25. The post remembered him not just as a successful businessman and employer, but also a generous philanthropist and community leader. He was involved with and honored by dozens of nonprofits and civic organizations over the years.

“Mr. Tucci employed and served many generations with his great Italian works of arts, and we will miss his daily involvement not just as a great boss, but as a friend, a confidant, a joke teller and our ‘Fearless Leader,’” the post read. “We were all lucky to have you in our lives. We are heartbroken, and we will miss you immensely, Mr. Tucci. And we will remember that ‘We’re all in this together.’”

Tony's owner and restauranteur Vince Bommarito Sr. and Tucci were longtime friends. In fact, Bommarito helped Tucci get his start in the restaurant industry, hiring him at The Fatted Calf. 

"He was a natural … always making friends. He received a promotion to manager shortly after being hired, and then transitioned to Tony’s where he worked every job – from valet to bartender and then maitre d', which led to him opening The Pasta House," Bommarito said via email.

He added that he would miss his his friend a great deal. “He meant so much to the restaurant family in St. Louis, to the Italian community and to so many in our city who loved him," he said.  

Sauce publisher and owner Allyson Mace said Tucci was one of the publication’s earliest supporters. He called to congratulate her on the first issue of Sauce in October 2001, launching a relationship that would continue for decades.

“I had the honor of spending time with him, working on projects and his various boards and nonprofit events," Mace said. "Kim had his finger on the pulse of this city. Whenever I could, I spent time with him listening, smiling and laughing until my face hurt as he shared stories of times gone by.”

Mace extended her heartfelt condolences to Tucci’s family, including his wife, Sharon; his daughter, Alexis; and his two grandsons.

“Kim was jovial and a captivating speaker,” Mace said. “He was generous with his time and thoughts, and he had a love for our culinary scene and city that will resonate forever. He was a true friend to all and will be deeply missed.” 

A memorial service for Tucci will take place at 2 p.m. Friday at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. 

Matt Sorrell is a staff writer at Sauce Magazine. 

Editor's Note: This article was updated at 3:10 p.m. Tuesday, March 26 to include information about Tucci's memorial service. It was updated again Friday, March 28 at 11:20 a.m. to include a quote from Vince Bommarito Sr.