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Charlie Gitto Sr.'s grandson to open a new restaurant, with future of downtown restaurant uncertain

The new restaurant will be in Warson Woods in the Bennett Hills Shopping Center
Credit: SANSONE GROUP via St. Louis Business Journal
Bennett Hills Shopping Center along Manchester Road in Warson Woods is where Charlie Gitto Sr.'s grandson Louie Vangel has signed for space to open a new restaurant.

ST. LOUIS — Louie Vangel, a grandson of the late Charlie Gitto Sr. who ran his grandfather's famed Charlie Gitto’s Downtown restaurant for the last decade, is opening up an Italian restaurant under his own name that will carry on the family tradition.

Vangel has signed a lease for 5,618 square feet of restaurant space in the Bennett Hills Shopping Center at 10017 Manchester Road in Warson Woods, aiming to open Vangel’s Italian Restaurant by March 1. The space previously was occupied by J. Greene’s Irish Pub, which closed in June.

Meanwhile, the future of Charlie Gitto’s Downtown is uncertain.

Charlie Gitto’s Downtown, at 207 N. Sixth St., reached one of the high points in its 45-year history when Gitto Sr. ate toasted ravioli out of the St. Louis Blues’ Stanley Cup — won thanks in part to Pat Maroon, now the husband of Gitto Sr.'s granddaughter and Vangel’s sister, Francesca Vangel Maroon. But last year the restaurant faced unprecedented challenges, from the Covid-19 pandemic and Gitto Sr.'s death at age 87 in July 2020. A completely separate chain of restaurants, Charlie Gitto’s on the Hill and at Hollywood Casino, are owned by Vangel’s uncle, Charlie Gitto Jr.

Charlie Gitto’s Downtown reopened for several months after stay-at-home orders were lifted last year, but then closed in October 2020 for renovations during the baseball off season. In February, however, just as the restaurant was about to reopen, a pipe burst, causing catastrophic damage to the more than 100-year-old building. In one stroke of luck that Vangel said was “probably my grandpa looking down on me,” the priceless photos that once lined the walls had been packed up so the restaurant could be painted. None were damaged.

Vangel said the family hopes to reopen the downtown restaurant, which is now owned by his mother, Karen Gitto-Vangel. But it’s still uncertain if or when that will happen. Even without factoring in the pandemic that has slowed potential business from downtown office employees and tourists, fixing the extensive damage to the building is complicated by its age.

Read the full story on the St. Louis Business Journal website.