The Riggio Building

The Riggio Building, located on the corner of Shaw and Marconi on The Hill, is another cool old building with terra-cotta details. It was built in 1925 for the Riggio brothers realty business as well as “The Bank.” Joseph and Ignazio Riggio, like most residents of The Hill, were Italian immigrants, although unlike their neighbors who had primarily come from northern Italy, the Riggio brothers were Sicilians. Despite normal contentious relations between the two Italian ethnic groups, the Riggios were a respected and important part of the community.

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The Riggio Building has also housed a jewelry store, clothing company, and the well-known J. Viviano and Sons Italian Grocery (which is now located next door),as well as upstairs apartments. Today the first floor is home to both the roasting and retail operations for Shaw’s Coffee.

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This building has always been a central location on The Hill, from the time its 500 safe deposit boxes were effectively the main bank for the area’s residents (despite a lack of an official charter), to today, where it is a popular gathering spot for a cup of coffee and conversation. Hopefully it will continue to be an integral part of life on The Hill for years to come!

Christmas on The Hill 2014

Today was one of our favorite days of the Christmas season…Christmas on The Hill!

The first thing we always do when we get there is look for all the nativities. It doesn’t matter how many times we see them, we still marvel at their beauty, and the way they tell the Christmas story!

We stopped by The Hill’s version of a Christmas market. There were items for sale, crafts for the children, and something new this year…salsiccia. It wasn’t the salamites we’ve grown accustomed to over the years, but it was still delicious!

There was Christmas spirit everywhere!

And Italian spirit everywhere, too, of course!

Bunnys’ favorite part of Christmas on The Hill is listening to La Befana tell her story at Gelato di Riso.

I love looking at St. Ambrose, the neighborhood church…it’s so beautiful!

Any visit to The Hill is fun, but Christmas on The Hill is even better!

Cakeway to the West–Personal Favorites

Now that I’ve seen all of the “Cakeway to the West” displays, I feel that the time has come to pick my very favorites. It’s not easy to choose, because there were so many awesome artists decorating these cakes, but I have narrowed it down. The names in bold represent my “top ten” of all my favorites.

The Dogtown cake is my very favorite, for a lot of sentimental reasons. Dogtown was the neighborhood Ryan and I lived in when we were first married, and it was the perfect first place to live, as a newly married couple, and as new residents of St. Louis. There’s a great community feeling, and a great history, not to mention the awesome ethnic (Irish) flair…and this cake is like a love letter to all of that. I couldn’t have designed it better if I had tried!

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The Rigazzi’s cake is awesome, not necessarily because of the cake itself (although it references a lot of St. Louis favorites like the Zoo, beer, and baseball), but because of its location, both on The Hill, and beneath one of the remaining All-Star arches. It’s like a St. Louis tchotchkes Holy Grail!

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I also love the Blueberry Hill cake. It’s a tribute to pop culture icons…Darth Vader, Pac-Man, the Simpsons, and more. It’s random and awesome, and when you add in the bright colors of the cake, it’s easy to see why it’s a favorite!

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The cake at Historic Trinity Lutheran Church in Soulard makes my list for two reasons (three if I’m being honest). First, it was done by my very favorite local artist, Mark Hurd, who I’ve had the opportunity to meet at Art on the Square (and buy several pieces of art from!). Second, I love the way that the candle is an extension of the steeple. And, if I’m honest, I also love that it’s at a Lutheran church. You can’t talk about the history of St. Louis without mentioning us Lutherans at least a bit, right?

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I also love the cake at the University City Lion Gates. I’m not sure that there’s one more recognizably St. Louis culture cake than this, because it asks (and answers!) the all-important St. Louis question, “Where did you go to high school?”

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The cake at The Cheshire is just awesome in all of its fleurs-de-lis glory. I especially love the candle, with the writing, and the extra fleur-de-lis. It’s just a beautiful, elegant cake!

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The cake at Shaw Park is fun, because it shows all of the activities that can be enjoyed there all year round…swimming, ice hockey, and tennis all included!

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The Busch Stadium cake is a favorite because Cardinals. Enough said.

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The Ted Drewes cake both captures the spirit of the place, and gives us an excuse to get some frozen custard. It’s a win-win cake!

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The Carondelet Historical Society cake is a favorite because it references so much St. Louis history, some of which was new to me. I love how much I’ve learned through the Cakeway to the West project!

IMG_4112_2The cake at Saint Louis University is all kinds of awesome. The placement is perfect. Depending on which way you’re looking, there are fountains or flowers or a gorgeous church in the background. And the cake itself is really pretty, and perfect for the location.

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The College of Pharmacy cake might seem like a strange choice, but it really tickled me. Notice how it’s designed to look like a pharmacist’s lab coat? I love it!

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The cake at the Boys and Girls Club is great for a few reasons. I love the way it’s divided right down the middle to showcase the past and the present. And I really love that one of the cakes pays homage to the long-gone St. Louis Browns baseball team. Another bonus is that I learned a little something extra about St. Louis history after seeing this one, which is probably the most fun part of this project (for me, anyway)!

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The cake at St. Louis City Hall does a great job of showing what’s important in St. Louis. Notice all the fleurs-de-lis? Each one is painted in a specific way. My favorite, of course, is the baseball fleur-de-lis!

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The Post-Dispatch cake gets points because it’s Weatherbird. Really, what else could it be? For those not in the know, Weatherbird is the oldest continuous cartoon in the United States…it’s been around since 1901! More history…

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The Drury Hotel cake is another “what’s what in St. Louis” masterpiece. You’ve got the city flag, you’ve got the skyline, and in the letters of the city’s name, you have tributes to the Arch, King Louis, Lewis and Clark, the Cardinals, the Zoo, and the Blues. Plus, more fleurs-de-lis. Love!

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The Gaslight Square cake gets retro points from me, for being placed in a historic spot. Plus this is another great past and present cake, showcasing the importance of Laclede Gas back in the days of, well, gaslights, and its importance today. The lamp bases in the background are an added bonus!

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The cake that sits where the old St Louis Arena used to be is also cool, mainly because of the ticket stubs affixed to the top. You get a good idea of who performed there, and there are some impressive names listed!

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The West Alton cake was an unanticipated favorite for me. It recognizes the major natural disasters in St. Louis history: earthquakes, storms, floods, and the terrible drought we had a few summers ago. It’s not only the pleasant events that shape a city, and I’m glad these were included.

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The cake at the original Imo’s location looked boring when we first drove up to it, but once I looked at it, I realized how cool it is. The base is pizza boxes, while the top is decorated to look like the famous “square beyond compare” pizza. Perfectly awesome!

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The Ferguson Station Depot cake is the one cake that recognizes St. Louis’ contribution to the space race. It also focuses on other forms of transportation, and is wonderfully brightly colored. Plus, there’s a great ice cream shop just up the hill from it that we discovered and enjoyed…total win!

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The Old Cathedral cake is just beautiful. Covered in flowers and other images such as King Louis and religious and local symbols, it’s beautiful and peaceful. It’s just what you would expect at the site of the first cathedral west of the Mississippi!

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The Warren County Courthouse cake is a favorite for several reasons. It’s a tribute to all four seasons, which is fun. I enjoyed seeing a snow scene on the July day we visited it. It also has the Halloween scene from Meet Me in St. Louis…a perfect tribute to a great movie!

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The Greenville Public Library cake is decorated to look like Busch Stadium. I have no idea why this cake is so far away from the Cardinals home base, but it’s completely awesome…the Rally Squirrel even makes an appearance!

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The cake at Francis Field is a tribute to the 1904 Olympics. There was just no doubt that this would be on my list…history plus Olympics for the win! It even tells what sports competed in 1904, and it’s a very different list from the Olympics games of today!

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I really tried to limit myself to 10% of the total cakes, or 25 cakes, when compiling this list. I was right on target, too. But this cake, at the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle, kept coming to mind. I love all the old signs, many of which are neon, that are painted on it.

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The cake at the Shrine of St. Joseph was another that kept coming to mind. The cake is beautifully decorated, and the church is so beautiful, and I wouldn’t have even known it was there if it wasn’t for Cakeway to the West. So I’m allowing myself a second bonus cake. And since Stl250 ended up placing a few bonus cakes, I guess it’s OK that I have bonus favorites, too!

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And, one final late addition to my favorites list…the Reunion cake, which debuted at First Night on 12/31/14, and was then moved to the Missouri History Museum. It’s like a slice of all the cakes (I’m really very sorry about the pun), and was completed by many of the cake artists…the perfect way to wrap up Cakeway to the West!

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All of the Stl250 cakes are beautiful and tell great stories that share the history and culture of our city. It was really hard to narrow down my favorites, because I really love them all. These are the cream of the crop for me, though, and really define what this city is all about.

Cakeway to the West–The Holy Grail of Giant St. Louis Tchotchkes

Another one of my favorite Stl250 Cakeway to the West installations is located at Rigazzi’s on The Hill:

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There are several reasons this cake is a favorite. First of all, the cake itself is dedicated to St. Louis icons. The Arch, the statue of King Louis, baseball, shoes, beer, chess, zoo animals, the fleur-de-lis…it’s all there. A true snapshot right into the heart of the city. But my love of this installation doesn’t stop there.

The cake couldn’t be in a more St. Louis location than on The Hill. The Hill and its restaurants are world-famous. It’s a great little neighborhood that’s an example of how great the neighborhoods of St. Louis are, with their unique, quirky characteristics. I had high hopes for a cake on The Hill, and this one did not disappoint!

But that’s not all. The cake is also placed directly beneath one of the All-Star arches from the 2009 All-Star game! As we drove up to it, all I could think was that we hit a St. Louis tchotchkes holy grail. To find a 250th birthday cake and an All-Star arch in the same place, with the giant Budweiser sign in the background…perhaps I shouldn’t look directly at it! This was, as far as I’m concerned, the find of the year as far as the cakes go. I can’t imagine liking the placement of another one as much (although, I’ll leave the door open to be pleasantly surprised!), even if other cake designs may be future favorites.

I also discovered another cake/arch combo, at the Matthews-Dickey Boy’s and Girl’s Club! I don’t like this cake as much as the one at Rigazzi’s, but I appreciate the placement!

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It just goes to show that location is everything!

Tasty Tuesday–Zeppole Day!

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March 19 is St. Joseph’s Day, which is also “zeppole day” in Italian areas. Zeppole are basically split or small donuts with a filling/topping, and often a dusting of powered sugar on top. The zeppole I got from Missouri Baking (the only place in St. Louis that makes them, as far as I can tell), are filled with a simple cinnamon-topped custard…delicious! I was very glad to find some this year. We went to The Hill last year to look for some, but as St. Joseph’s Day was on a Monday. all of the bakeries were closed. I was determined not to miss out in 2013, and I bought the last six zeppole they had…it worked out perfectly!

Christmas on The Hill 2012

It’s hard to believe that Christmas on The Hill has already come and gone, but as always, it was fun!

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The Nativity Walk is my favorite part of Christmastime on The Hill.

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This was my favorite Nativity scene.

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The detail on the pieces was amazing!

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The buildings all look so festive at this time of year!

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And I’ve never seen such a festive horse…it didn’t just have bells and bows, it had antlers and a red nose!

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Even its feet were decorated!

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Of course, we listened to La Befana tell her story.

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We also stumbled across some sort of flash mob…it was very entertaining!

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I love the Italian pride that is everywhere!

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And the fact that the center of it all is St. Ambrose Catholic Church.

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I have a favorite house on The Hill.

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I love that space under the stairs that’s just perfect for a Nativity scene!

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It’s nice to see local businesses get such good support from the crowds.

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Quite a few of the buildings on The Hill have these green bricks…I wonder if there’s some kind of story behind them?

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No trip to The Hill would be complete without a stop at Amighetti’s!

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Another fun (and windy!), day in December on The Hill!

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Italia-America Bocce Club

Also when touring The Hill over the weekend, we stopped in at the Italia-America Bocce Club. I’ve never been to a bocce club before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

There are lanes, similar to a bowling alley in some ways, but carpeted. Our tour guide, Joe DeGregorio, gave us a brief overview of the sport, explaining how the scoring works, (bocce is played in frames, also like bowling), and how you determine whose turn it is to play, (it’s more complicated than simply alternating turns).

After explaining the sport, he invited a group to come out to the lane, and try it out. Guess who he picked?

The children had a great time playing. They actually did a pretty good job, (beginner’s luck?), especially given that they had never played before. In the end, the girls beat the boys, but only barely.

It was a cool looking club. They have a banquet room, which I imagine has witnessed some pretty awesome parties. There’s also a bar area off the playing floor…seems like the kind of sport where it would be fun to enjoy a beer while playing! I particularly enjoyed the stained glass windows in the club, depicting scenes from a bocce game.

I kind of wish we lived a little bit closer…I think it would be great fun to be part of a bocce league!

Saint Ambrose Catholic Church

Did you know that today is the commemoration for Ambrose of Milan, Pastor and Hymnwriter? The timing for our visit to The Hill was quite felicitous in that regard! Ambrose was one of the four great Latin Doctors of the Church, (the others being Augustine, Jerome, and Gregory the Great), and writer of my favorite Advent hymn, “Savior of the Nations Come.” The Catholic church on The Hill was obviously named in his honor.

As part of “Christmas on The Hill” this year, we took a tour of The Hill. And by tour, I mean we went to the church, St Ambrose Catholic Church, and the bocce club. You know, the two most important places in the neighborhood.

I found learning about the history of the church, and by extension, the neighborhood, to be fascinating.

The current church building, which is absolutely beautiful, was built in the early 1920s, after the original wooden church building burned down. (Why the church burned is up for some debate–it was either the result of a unsupervised candle burning out of control when a priest fell asleep reading, or the explosion of a still. The latter story is much more interesting, in my opinion, so I’m going with that one!) The pillars in the church are buried 40 feet in the ground for support, which is amazing to me.

We learned that it took only four years to build, which I think is astounding given the time at which it was built, and cost $285,000. They had the whole project paid off in 10 years, (also astounding!), and raised money for it in a variety of ways, including having children pay for the bricks used at a cost of 10 cents each. There were improvements done to the church in the 60s, following Vatican II, including the addition of a new, very grand, altar.

The church has been, and still is, the center of the community. It was clear, even in our brief time there, that it is still a gathering place–people were meeting on the church steps and talking, the salamites were distributed in the parking lot, and the crowning event of the day was an evening Christmas concert at the church, (which I hope to attend one of these years).