On a little corner in Chesterfield are three Sicilian gems, where customers in West St. Louis County can receive the finest products and services from long-standing Italian families, without having to drive the long distance to The Hill.
Paul Manno’s Cafe, considered one of the country's top restaurants by some, makes its home at 75 Forum Shopping Center. Walk several doors east and you will find Guy and Carmelo Salon, an upscale beauty shop owned by Sicilian-born Guy Mondello, who came to the United States at age 12. Head across Olive Boulevard and a few blocks west, and you will be delighted with Viviano’s Festa Italiano, an Italian grocery, cafe and deli, "where everyday is an Italian festival."
Paul Manno’s Cafe opened its doors in 1995, and although it has expanded twice, it still maintains an intimate atmosphere with its Frank Sinatra aura and decor. At the helm of the restaurant today is 39-year-old Paul Manno Jr., who left college as a sophomore to join Paul Sr. and Concetta Manno, his now semi-retired parents, in the venture. “My dad found out that the space was available and invited me to join him in the restaurant. Since we lived 1 mile from the area, it was a natural location for our family,” says Manno, who calls himself "Jack-of-all trades" as owner, GM and chef.
Specialties at Manno’s restaurant include Chilean sea bass with a spicy diavolo sauce and linguini with clams (Mama Concetta's recipe) cooked in white wine, garlic, crushed red pepper, flat leaf parsley and clam juice. Veal Milanese, veal chop, a filet of beef "to die for" and Colorado rack of lamb are among customers' favorites. "I am proud that we have been featured in Gourmet magazine’s Guide to America’s Best Restaurants. Zagat scored us very high in their food rating, and the Robb Report published an article about us called Worth The Trip,” he beams.
Celebrities who have frequented the restaurant include Ozzie Smith, Joe Buck, Florence Henderson, Jim Edmonds, Bobby Knight, Joe Torre, Denzel Washington, Jimmy Kimmel and many others.
Sicilians have a strong passion and care for good food and genuine flavors, which is evident at Paul Manno’s Cafe. Manno admits that occasionally, he will run out of an ingredient and if he is in a "pinch," he will run across the street to Viviano's and buy it there. "They have a great supply of Italian items. I also shop there for our home."
Mike Viviano, 48, co-owner of Viviano’s Festa Italiano with his sister-in-law, Becky Parker, says his Sicilian grandfather came to the U.S. at the turn of the 20th century. “My grandfather worked for his uncle at his pasta company in St. Louis, and then at John Viviano & Sons on The Hill (now owned by Mike’s brothers). I’m the third generation in the grocery business and I know what it takes to grow it.”
This year, Viviano’s will celebrate six years in Chesterfield. "The grocery, deli and catering business was my own concept," Viviano proudly notes. "We offer a combination of the taste of The Hill, Italy, the finest East Coast quality meats, cheeses, homemade cannolis, specialty cuts of pasta, olive oils, sauces and cold cuts. I’ve known the Volpe family since I was a little boy and I am proud to carry their high-quality meats. Every day, we bring in breads and favorite Italian pastries from Marconi Bakery, Missouri Baking Company, Vitale’s and Fazio’s Bakery."
Viviano and Manno both share a love and passion for the food they create. “Italians have a common respect for our heritage and want to carry on great traditions,” Viviano explains. "There also is a strong connection between Italian families in St. Louis. I have known the Mondellos at Guy and Carmelo for years. Guy’s brother, Ralph, cut my hair when I worked on The Hill."
Manno agrees, saying he and Carmelo Mondello grew up together. “When I was 15, Carmelo was an assistant waiter at John Mineo's and I was a busser. We have been around each other for a long time. And now we work in the same area."
Guy Mondello opened Guy and Carmelo Salon almost 10 years ago with his nephew, Carmelo, who previously worked as a stylist at Dominic Michael Salon. Today, four Mondellos are on staff, including Guy Mondello's daughter, Francesca, 29, and his brother, Tony. Although Guy owns the salon, he affirms that most decisions are made as a group. He smiles as he says, "At times, my Italian temper takes over.” To which the 41-year-old Carmelo just laughs, “We get along great.”
Carmelo Mondello manages the salon, which began with four hairdressers and one manicurist. “Now, we have 25 experienced hair stylists and five manicurists. We have doubled in size and square footage," he says. The contemporary salon is open and airy with maple hardwood flooring and cherry cabinets. It also has an adjoining retail store that carries a wide range of high-end hair styling products.
Guy Mondello was a busboy at Ruggeri’s Restaurant after he immigrated to the United States. “My Dad came here in 1955, and my mother, brother and I followed in 1958. Brother Tony, who was serving in the Army, arrived three years later," he recalls. Guy attended beauty school and after graduation, worked in various West County locations before opening his Chesterfield salon.
Guy is proud his daughter, Francesca, is following in his footsteps. “I’ve been around hair-styling my whole life and am super-passionate about it,” she says. “People who work here feel like it is one big family. Many of them have been here since day one, and call my dad and his brother, ‘Uncle Tony’ and ‘Uncle Guy.’ ” She mentions that some of the wait staff from Paul Manno's come to Guy and Carmelo's to get their hair cut and styled, as well. "It is amazing that we are so close together in this corner of Chesterfield.”
Guy Mondello says he has known the Manno family for 40 years. “We chat outside the shop. We honk and visit. When Concetta Manno is in St. Louis, she gets her hair styled by my brother, Tony,” he says, adding that he was really excited when Viviano’s opened. “Now, I don’t have to drive all the way to The Hill to buy Italian products. We have a little corner of Italy right here in Chesterfield.”