Inside St. Louis


An original watercolor of Yacovelli's by local artist Marilynne Bradley.




     I’ll tell you, it’s tough for the mind to tackle the turmoil, tumult and turns that have transpired since 1919 when St. Louis got its first taste of Yacovelli’s. It was the year before the 18th Amendment turned our nation dry and two years before regular radio broadcasts became a reality in our town on WEW. 1919 was when United Artists Pictures was formed by then hot Hollywood celebs Mary “America’s Sweetheart” Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks (Mary’s husband), Charlie Chaplin and W Griffith. Yacovelli’s was born a year after The War To End All Wars, which took the lives of several million people came to a close, and Elmo Lincoln was on the silver screen as the first film Tarzan in “Tarzan of the Apes.” It was a silent flicker as they all were in the teens and for most of the twenties. It’s first run here was at the 5 year old New Grand Central theatre at the northeast corner of Grand Boulevard and Lucas St. (now Samuel Shepard Drive) which was just 7 blocks from the first Yacovelli’s Italian cafe. That first location was in the two story building at the southwest corner of Vandeventer Avenue and Laclede Street, across from Vesper Buick which occupied the northwest corner. The building, at least for now, is still there, but rumors persist that the property may be part of the ever expanding campus of neighboring St. Louis University. Founder John Yacovelli, who in 1909 came here from San Salvatore, Italy, when he was 14 and toiled here as a busboy and waiter opened his own place three years subsequent to Woodrow Wilson’s nomination for President of the United States at our Coliseum which was on the west side of Jefferson Boulevard between Washington Avenue and Locust Street which was been built above Urigh’s Cave.

     In 1919 when Yacovelli’s served Coca-Cola from the curvy bottle we all know so well, that bottle’s design was but three years old. 1919 was also the year the world was just overcoming the Spanish flu pandemic that had taken the lives of over 20 million people worldwide. The war was over, the flu which was the worst disease since the Black Death had wiped out one-third of the European population in the 1300s had ended and very few people believed prohibition would become reality. To a Yacovelli named John and his wife Filomena, better known as Fanny, it seemed a good time to start a restaurant, and for the most part; with the roaring and prosperous twenties on the horizon…it was. In the time honored tradition, the Yacovelli residence was above their first location at Vandeventer and Laclede, a place in which they, and the restaurant, would remain for 10 years. At this point it might help to reference an AAA street map to keep track of the eight Yacovelli locations over these 90 long years. They moved from their Midtown operation to the Shaw neighborhood and Tower Grove Avenue and Lafayette Street in the shimmering bright pre-depression year of ’29. They stayed there until 1932 as the deepening Depression was casting a pall over everyone and everything. Their home was at 4301 Lafayette above the eatery which was in a building that following WWII would become a Food Center supermarket. Today I-44 would be their neighbor across the street as at that point 44 did away with the south side of Lafayette and the north side of De Tonty Avenue a block to the south. In ’32 and until ’34 John and Fanny took their first foray outside the city limits all the way to Lindbergh and Lemay Ferry Roads, an intersection fondly remembered as the location of the original Dohack’s restaurant noted for their wonderful Jack Salmon.  But the traveling Yacovellis’ came back to St. Louis City one final time for another 10 year run starting in 1934. They held forth at their café at 1506 S. Grand Boulevard and Park Avenue where their phone was in the PRospect exchange. By this time the family had moved to 5425 Pernod Avenue between Sublette and Macklind Avenues, right by the Mitchel Clay Manufacturing Company clay mines that were still operating until the early 1950s.  

     Next on the Yacovelli location menu was their sleekly modern spot at 375 N. Big Bend Boulevard at Millbrook Boulevard in University City, at the end of the University streetcar line and catty-cornered from Washington University. John and Fanny served their famed Italian specialties there from ’44 to 1951 when they retired and turned things over to their son Dewey who with his wife Marie made the next move starting in 1950. They stayed on the same street moving to 717 E. Big Bend, which sounds close, but that location is really several suburbs away in Kirkwood and they’d stay put there until 1966. This time when I-44 was opened it proved a boon for business as the restaurant was right at the highway. It was in this location that Dewey Yacovelli in 1953 expanded on their famed fare of steaks, pizza, spaghetti, ravioli and seafood and pioneered the concept of a Salad Bar which started a restaurant industry revolution.  

      In ’66 Dewey sold the restaurant, and name, then moved operations to the other side of the county in Florissant; first at Graham and Pershall Roads from ’66-’67 where even though his name was Yacovelli, someone other than he had the rights to it for a restaurant, so Dewey named the new spot Camelot. They moved to 427 Dunn Road in ’67 and became Mr. Yac’s. They stayed put ‘til ’85 then they made the very, very short move to 407 Dunn where they’re currently located. During the early part of their Dunn Road stay they started using the slogan: “We’re everything you’d like a restaurant to be.” The Kirkwood Yacovelli location has long been closed so today the family name is back on the business even thought the name Mr. Yac’s remains prominently displayed, along with Yacovelli’s at their current home which had once been the site of an A&P supermarket.  In 1977 Dewey and Marie had turned the keys over to their son Jack and his wife Janis (Jan) and now 32 years later they remain at the helm of this truly venerable family operation at which Joe, a representative of the fourth generation, is now involved. Even though Yacovelli’s is not the oldest continually operating family restaurant operation in the area, I can think of only two that precede it. They are Failoni’s at 6715 Manchester Avenue that hails back to 1917 and Beffa Brothers Buffet at 2700 Olive Street at Beaumont Street. They’ve been at that same intersection for 112 years. Beffa’s is that mysterious place where they have no sign, no phone listing, no criss-cross directory listing, no menu and no posted prices. Most of the recipes used today in the creation of Yacovelli’s fine foods are steeped in tradition and in some cases actually were imported over 90 years ago by founder John Yacovelli. Some Rabbitt recommendations include: rich, meaty homemade crab cakes with a chipotle ranch sauce at $7.95; Steak Diane; tender beef medallions, sautéed with mushrooms, green onions, brandy and Escoffier sauce, a rich combination not found at many places anywhere in the country. The dish is flamed at your table for $19.95. Ravioli, made the old-fashioned way, but with a 21st century filling of ground tenderloin, spinach and feta cheese topped with a cream sauce that includes artichokes and diced tomatoes for $13.95. The shrimp Ponchartrain consists of breaded shrimp stuffed with a cream cheese filling, then deep fried and served with drawn butter for $18.95.  Other worthy Yacovelli signature dishes include: Chicken Marie, Chicken Yacovelli, Baked Rigatoni Bosaiola and Filet Yacovelli…plus a darn good meatball sandwich with homemade meatballs, tomato sauce, provolone cheese on ciabatta bread for $6.95 and they make a good St. Louis style thin-crust pizza which they’ve offered for decades. In addition to the preceding the “Specialty of the House” is tender prime rib of beef that’s slow, slow roasted and served with a homemade horseradish sauce with the 9 ounce cut at $12.95, 13 ounce for $15.95 and the full pound at $17.95. This is the best prime rib buy anywhere. Another feature from the menu is dinner for two for $25 in which you can select prime rib, French fried shrimp, chicken parmesan or linguine and meatballs. It comes with soup or salad a side dish and ice cream, which is a good buy in any book. And there’s an early bird special available from 4 to 5:30 Wednesday through Sunday that knocks two bucks off 4 popular items. Oh, they now have family style chicken dinners on Sunday from noon to 8 p.m. It’s $10.95 from noon to 4 and $13.95 between 4 and 8. It’s “all you can eat while you’re in your seat!” At Yacovelli’s the tradition shows as you’re served with a smile in an open and charming old-style dining room that hearkens back to a time when having a good meal out was a relaxing and rich experience and not standing in line at a fast food joint. The past is alive and well at Yacovelli’s and it blends nicely, thank you, with the present and future.





     Yacovelli's is located in Saint Louis, Missouri  Click here for directions.

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Written by: Ron (Johnny Rabbitt) Elz of KMOX and Channel  5’s Show Me St. Louis.


Contact Information


407 Dunn Road
Florissant, MO 63031
(314) 839-1000

Hours of Operation


Wednesday & Thursday 4 p.m. - 9 p.m.

Friday & Saturday 4 p.m. - 10 p.m.

Sunday 12 p.m. - 8 p.m.

 All items available for carry out

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