Richard Ronzio and Charlie Mugavero opened the original Rich & Charlie’s in St. Louis in 1967. What began as 40-seat, delicatessen has since expanded into a $5 million four-restaurant operation that marked its 50th anniversary in 2017. The restaurants are owned and operated by family members of the original founders. The restaurants are located in Crestwood (9942 Watson Rd.), South County (4487 Lemay Ferry Rd.), and two locations in Town & Country (1081 S. Woods Mill Rd.; 1091 S. Woods Mill Rd.).
ST. LOUIS (April 18, 2017) -- When Richard Ronzio and Charlie Mugavero opened Rich & Charlie’s Restaurant, a 40-seat Italian delicatessen at Delmar and Old Bonhomme in 1967, little did they realize their descendants would nurture and grow the business into a $5 million four-restaurant operation that marks its 50th anniversary of serving their famous salad, and fresh original family pastas made daily.
In recognition of the 50th anniversary, the restaurants will be offering two special consumer promotions. The first offer features dinner for two, including salad, a select pasta from the original 1967 menu, and a mini cannoli, for $19.67, at each of the Rich & Charlie’s locations in Crestwood, South County and Town & Country. The offer is redeemable Sundays through Thursdays, for a limited time. Rich & Charlie’s will also select 20 winners each month as part of its “Share Your Memories Contest, ” in which guests can enter to win a chance to order dinner for two off the original menu at 1967 prices. To enter, guests can share their favorite Rich & Charlie’s memories and photos on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #richandcharlies50; or, they can enter the contest at one of the restaurants.
The four restaurants are owned and operated by Ronzio’s nephews Marty Ronzio, Emil and Chuck Pozzo; Emil’s brother-in-law Dominic Puleo; as well as their respective sons, Paul Ronzio, Emil Pozzo, Jr., and Andrew and Joe Puleo. The sauces, sausages, salad dressing and pastas are made both in-house and at a production facility founded by the family using only the freshest, local ingredients for the menu items. Low-carb and gluten-free items are also available on the menu. Fresh produce is delivered daily to each of the restaurants, and the smell of homemade bread wafts throughout the dining areas.
The Rich & Charlie’s renowned salad dressing is available in grocery store chains throughout the Midwest. Online orders of the dressing are shipped nationwide.
“Some days I just can’t believe we’ve been in this business for fifty years -- it’s gone by so quickly -- but I do think our uncle would be proud of what we have accomplished with his initial vision,” said Marty Ronzio, co-owner of Rich and Charlie’s. “The experience has provided our family with the opportunity to build and maintain strong relationships with our dedicated employees and our loyal customers, many of whom are the great grandchildren of our original customers.”
Ronzio still remembers making pasta noodles as a teenager in the basement of his uncle’s home and delivering them to the original Delmar restaurant where he waited tables. In addition to the Italian pasta dishes, the menu featured sweet and sour cabbage, corned beef sandwiches and homemade cinnamon buns. Many of the customers lived on farms off Clayton Road and persuaded founders Ronzio and Mugavero to open a second location at Woods Mill Road, which they did in 1969. It was managed by Ronzio’s cousin, Emil, now a co-owner of the company as well.
“Some customers would arrive on horseback to order off the menu at the counter at the Woods Mill location. It was strictly carry-out at that time,” Ronzio said. “It was farm country and Woods Mill Road was just two narrow lanes.”
In 1973, the two cousins opened the Lemay Ferry location, and Emil’s brother Chuck Pozzo, and brother-in-law Dominic Puleo, took over the Woods Mill location in Town & Country. That same year co-founder Mugavero was killed in a plane crash. The following year, Rich Ronzio and his two nephews joined investors Kim Tucci, Joe Fresta and John Ferrara and opened the Pasta House Co. on 6th Street in downtown St. Louis. While the group managed the Rich & Charlie’s restaurants on Delmar, Woods Mill, and Lemay Ferry, they continued to open Pasta House restaurants and operated both entities as one unit. In 1978, the Crestwood Pasta House switched to a Rich & Charlie’s; it had originally been a Ronzio family restaurant called Il Vesuvio years earlier.
As the operation became larger, however, Pozzo and Ronzio divested from the group in 1982 and began focusing on their family locations. Tucci, Fresta and Ferrara continued operating the Pasta House Co. At that point, the original Rich & Charlie’s restaurant on Delmar became a Pasta House where it is still in operation today.
Both Pozzo and Ronzio are proud of their family’s restaurant heritage and its ties to many of the city’s former stellar restaurants, including Rich & Charlie’s Trattoria, Belle Angeline, Roncaro’s, Pagliacci, Fin and Feather, Roberto’s, and Briff Biconni’s, to name a few. In addition, several former employees have left Rich & Charlie’s to form numerous restaurant and catering options on their own.
“It’s been a wonderful experience,” Pozzo said. “The quality of our food and our customer service has always been a priority for us and I believe it’s helped sustain our growth these last five decades. We are constantly striving for perfection both in the kitchen and in the dining area, and that includes providing our customers with the most fresh and best homemade ingredients.”
Pozzo said Rich & Charlie’s was unique to the Italian restaurant scene from the very beginning.
“Until that time, Italian restaurants typically offered pizza and spaghetti,” he said. “There were a couple of high-end Italian restaurants, of course, but this was the first time regular consumers could order white pasta sauce, for example, as well as a variety of red sauce menu items at reasonable prices.”