At Home in Little Italy
by Dan Martino
Though we’d known about Airbnb.com for some time, it wasn’t until May 2017 that Carol and I first used the service; a visit to Galena, IL, one of our favorite getaways. So, when I was planning another St. Louis adventure with my sister Sandra later that month, I wondered if there were options on The Hill, Little Italy in St. Louis. I was fortunate enough to find the apartment offered by Steve and Terry Cacciatore (pictured right), a great place in the Southwest Garden Neighborhood, right at the southern edge of Little Italy. Sandra and I, along with Carol, had been developing new Italian recipes for our Grandpa Martino Memorial Dinners for over ten years at that point and when we realized we would have the chance to develop one in Little Italy, we got pretty excited and immediately booked a 2-night stay. We began thinking about a new pasta dish and I think we came up with a worthy effort…but I’m getting ahead of myself.
After booking through the website, I contacted Terry to confirm that we could actually use the kitchen to cook an Italian dinner and she said, “Of course! And we would love to join you!” (the Cacciatores live right next door). So on our first night, we did indeed prepare an Italian dinner at our “home” in Little Italy; a new dish we dubbed Sandra’s Little Italy Pasta (see recipe below). The meal was made especially memorable because Steve and Terry joined us. We got to know a bit about the Cacciatores over the course of the evening and we learned that Steve and I have more than a few things in common. We are both second generation Italian/American. Steve’s paternal grandfather left his job as a cooper in Castletermini, Sicily, arriving in the states in 1919. When he got to St. Louis, he brought his considerable woodworking skill to bear in his new profession…manufacturing wooden ice boxes. Like our father, Steve is a carpenter, managing his own business, Cacciatore Carpentry, LLC. And Steve loves to cook. Terry told us of a tradition of Friday night pizza gatherings when friends will drop by to see if Steve is conjuring up one of his special pies. Regrettably, Sandra and I were there earlier in the week and missed that opportunity…perhaps another time.
The apartment is within walking distance of virtually the entire Little Italy district, an area just under one square mile in size. Sandra and I had visited The Hill for the first time in 2010 and Carol and I have spent time there nearly every year since 2008. We love the feel of the neighborhood with the red, white and green fireplugs and the rows of town houses so neatly kept. Over the years, we’ve tried nearly all the great family owned Italian restaurants that dot The Hill and we especially like checking out the unique offerings at the three Italian markets there. John Viviano and Sons was the first we discovered and I remember our first visit quite well. We walked out with two huge boxes of pasta, sauces, spices, wine and a real treat for us…the nougat candy that Grandpa would give us for Christmas when we were kids. Finding that candy connected me to Little Italy in a profound way and I get that every time we visit.
On later excursions, we discovered DiGregorio Italian Market and Urzi’s Italian Market, both offering similar but also unique treasures. We bought the pasta, cheese and prosciutto for our meal at DiGregorio’s and the Italian bread at Viviano’s, utilizing as much local content as possible.
The Cacciatore property consists of their home and two adjoining apartments, one up and one down. Both apartments are offered on Airbnb.com, the lower level was made available in April 2017. It was that newly offered, one bedroom (with a living room futon) apartment, that I booked for us. In addition to the fully stocked kitchen, there is a washer/dryer unit and all the amenities you would expect in a B&B. Plus, there is a great front porch where Sandra and I enjoyed late evening glasses of wine and morning coffee, watching The Hill come to life like locals. In fact, while we were planning to go out to one of the great local restaurants the second night, we ended up opting for a bottle of wine with some cheeses on the porch, relaxing and enjoying the perfect May weather. It truly felt like we were living in Little Italy.
Steve and Terry have owned the property since 2008 and started with Airbnb.com in 2016...a decision that I’m really glad they made. Sandra and I loved our time on The Hill and I can’t imagine staying in a hotel again on future visits. The privacy, the amenities, the proximity to everything in Little Italy made for a memorable visit and meeting the Cacciatores was icing on a very enjoyable cake. Even if you’re not Italian, spend some time on The Hill if you get a chance. Wander through the markets, watch a bocce ball match at Milo’s Tavern, relax in Berra park and enjoy some of the best Italian food you’ve ever had. And for a real local feeling, come “home” to one of the apartments offered by Steve and Terry. Have a glass of wine for me! Click HERE for a link to Steve and Terry’s Airbnb.com page.
Attractions on The Hill
The three Italian markets on The Hill have provided many of our favorite memories. We always tend to splurge which is great because through the year we can relive our time in Little Italy by enjoying the wonderful pastas, sauces and other goodies. Be sure to check out the markets when you visit The Hill. Click HERE for a link to Viviano's website. Click HERE for a link to the DiGregorio's Market site. Click HERE for a link to the Urzi's Italian Market Facebook page.
I was going to provide some information on dining in Little Italy but I would surely slight one or more of the great restaurants so I'll only mention one and justify that by telling you that we've had lunch at Anthonino's Taverna each and every time we visited The Hill. Their Toasted Ravioli offering is legendary and their pizza is some of best we've had. You can check out the menu on their website by clicking HERE.
The Hill really is an authentic Italian neighborhood, filled with rows of townhouses and other beautiful, small homes and a stroll down the streets gives you a feel of another time. For dinner, enjoy a great meal at one of the many Italian restaurants and, if you take my advice, at the end of the day, you'll be able to relax on the front porch of your own "home" at Steve and Terry's great apartment. You can be sure we'll be doing it again very soon!
Click HERE for a great website about The Hill.
Wherever and whenever you travel, you owe it to yourself to check out Airbnb options. Click HERE for a link to the website.
Sandra’s Little Italy Pasta
1 pound spinach fettuccine or other pasta
12 ounces baby bella mushrooms
6 ounces prosciutto
4 ounces butter
1 ¼ cups cream
4 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
⅓ cup toasted pine nuts
salt & pepper
Cook pasta per package instructions until al dente. Drain and return to pot.
While the pasta is cooking, finely slice the mushrooms. Chop the scallions
finely, using only the white portions. Coarsely chop the prosciutto. Heat
2 ounces of butter in a medium pan and cook the scallions over medium heat
for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms, cover, reduce heat and cook, stirring
occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the cream, prosciutto, ½ cup Parmesan,
half the parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 2 minutes. Add
remaining butter. Add the sauce to the pasta and toss. Serve immediately,
sprinkled with the remaining parsley, pine nuts and Parmesan.