ST. LOUIS – Rigazzi’s, the oldest operating restaurant in The Hill neighborhood, has been sold. And while the beloved Italian eatery is no longer a family-run business, it will remain a locally owned establishment.
Corey Christanell and business partner Donn Ganim bought the restaurant from Joan Aiazzi, whose late husband, Mark, ran the restaurant with her until his death in 2013. Mark’s photo sits over the bar now.
Rigazzi’s opened in 1957 at the corner of Daggett Avenue and Boardman Street. It was the brainchild of friends and business partners, Lou Aiazzi and John Riganti. The name of the restaurant is a portmanteau of their last names.
Joan Aiazzi said she did not want to sell her family’s restaurant to just anyone.
““It was important for me to ensure the next owner of Rigazzi’s was someone with deep ties to The Hill,” she said. “…I can rest easy knowing they will keep the traditions we created on our little corner of The Hill alive and well, and I can’t wait to come back and enjoy a glass of wine on the guest side of the bar!”
Christanell spent 20 years at Anheuser-Busch as an advisor to the CEO and as senior director of the brewery’s sports and entertainment marketing department. He grew up working at Mama Toscano’s Ravioli, his grandparents’ business.
Ganim owns and operates numerous franchise salons and previously owned Jeremiah’s in Cape Girardeau.
“It’s surreal and awesome (to be the new owner),” Ganim said. “I’m excited and nervous and scared and all that. I can’t believe it.”
The pair has hired St. Louisan and restaurant industry veteran Joe Hebert as the general manager and brought on local consultant Greg Hard to reevaluate the menu and building for possible upgrades.
The new duo plans to stick with favorites and mix in some modern items to meet the demands of the growing neighborhood.
But Christanell promises Rigazzi’s famed Frozen Fishbowls aren’t going anywhere.
“Just as The Hill has evolved in recent years, we are looking to make some thoughtful upgrades and improvements to make sure we have something for everyone at Rigazzi’s,” he said. “Before I was the owner, I was a long-time customer. I know what makes Rigazzi’s special, and we’re not looking to change that.”
With development across the street, the new owners of Rigazzi’s recognize the opportunity to continue traditions and make new ones.
“The Hill is booming,” Ganim said. “Brown and Crouppen moving in here; all this development over here. It’s finally coming alive. To me, it’s the best thing about St. Louis. Everybody has a baseball team. Not everybody has an Arch. Nobody has a little Italy. It’s America’s last little Italy, it really is.”