Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Hole In the Wall Pizza

One of the best things about St. Louis are all of the out of the way places, some of which turn out to be right under your nose. One such place is just across the city line, on a back street in Lemay, at the entrance to the old Stupp Brothers steel mill (similar to the place in the image above).

Weber Road is the northernmost South County interchange on Highway 55, just south of the city proper. Weber runs diagonally from Highway 55 to the River Des Peres at Carondelet Boulevard. The old Stupp Brothers plant is the largest landholding in the area. For decades, the Stupp Brothers forged steel bridge components at the mill.

Closer to Highway 55, the Stupp property has a large green space and newer warehouse buildings. But down in a low-lying area, near the intersection of Bridge Street and Weber at the eastern end of the site, you find the original entrance to the old steel mill. A familiar, US Steel sign hangs from the outside of one of the rusted mill buildings. The scene is reminiscent of something you'd see in the mountains of western Pennsylvania.

Up at the corner of Weber and Bridge, you're in a time warp. Some buildings date back eighty to ninety years. One appears to be an old tavern in the front part of an old home. It's easy to imagine a crew of grimy steel workers at the bar, knocking down a few cold ones just after the sounding of the 5:00 o'clock steam whistle. And at 3662 Weber, there's Monte Bello Pizza.

As a casual observer, it's hard to tell whether the place is still open for business. It is. The owners live above the restaurant. A peek through the window gives the impression the dining room might be in the basement.

Back at the intersection of Weber and I-55, standing in the gap of a possible eminent domain challenge, a homeowner has posted a "House Not For Sale" sign on the front porch. Developers are looking at the area for a large scale commercial project.

Whether new development comes to the area remains to be seen. However, for the time being, you can still explore a tiny corner of St. Louis County that hasn't changed much in over fifty years.


Joe said...

As I think I've posted elsewhere in the past, my mom worked as a nurse/secretary at Stupp Brothers for several years in the early 1970s. I believe they're relocated all their operations to the South or abroad.

But the Stupp family is still a pretty big name in StL. Mostly they live in Ladue. They started the old Lemay Bank as well, which no longer has any locations in Lemay and is now ridiculously called "Midwest BankCentre."

Also, to be clear: this stretch of Weber Road actually IS the city limit! There used to be signs on the southern side of the road that said "This portion of road maintained by St. Louis County." So, if you're driving west on Weber, you're in the City; if driving east, you're in the County. Pretty bizarre.

Even more confusingly, there are four distinct segments of Weber Road in the greater Affton/Lemay area. The first section starts as four lanes, from Lemay Ferry/Alabama adjacent to the River des Peres, then turns off towards Stupp Bros. as a two lane road. The four-lane segment continues as Carondelet Blvd.

The second section is where Stupp Bros. is located, and where the I-55 exit (SB only) happens. Those ramps are located in the City of St. Louis. In fact, City Sheriff Jim Murphy lives nearby, on Tesson Court. It extends up to Morgan Ford Road, that last little part being entirely within the city limits.

The other two segments are totally in the county. Less than a mile south of where Weber enters Morgan Ford, Morgan Ford transitions into Union Road, and then a bit further down Weber Road reappears! Here, it's a four lane road, the westward extension of Bayless Avenue (which has a full-service interchange with I-55).

That segment passes the Bayless schools complex (ironically not located on Bayless Ave itself), through the Village of Wilbur Park, and then ends at Gravois Road.

Finally, the final segment is another two-lane road, that starts just west of where the other one ends off Gravois, and continues all the way west to Laclede Station Road, just north of Rock Hill Road.

At one point in history, this may have all been one single roadway, but I'm not sure how long ago.

Michael Allen said...

After reading this entry, I went out to explore the area you describe. Your description is very accurate, as this little patch is almost a museum of early suburban growth in St. Louis. I did not check out the pizza restaurant, though, but hope to try in the future. I knew of the Stupp Brothers plant but had not gotten close to it before; it is a very interesting complex that merits partial preservation, although finding a reuse will not be easy. Perhaps, true to the unchnaging nature of the area, it could be converted to use for manufacturing something else. That would probably give Monte Bello some much-needed business. Monte Bello probably owes its existence to the plant, after all.

Anonymous said...

I have lived right next to Stupp Brothers for 14 years now and I have to tell you that I am going to miss out quiet little neighborhood when we get the buy out letters. The entire time I have lived here the only single thing that has changed is that we no longer hear the horns when Stupp is changing shifts. It is very quiet and peaceful and has been for forever.I think the luckiest day of my life was when I bought this little peace of land.There are not to many people that can say their neighborhood is just as good or better than it was 14 years ago. Well at least not in Lemay. Oh and Monte Bellos is still open but they are on the buy out list also.

Anonymous said...

new life is beginning at the old stupp warehouse. There are a few new tenants filling the place up after a lot of renovation.
Ben Hurr Construction does a lot of what Stupps used to; MDA is a turbine repair facility; There were several job postings for the packing place that opened, can
t remember the name. They have put a lot of time and money into the old place, it is sure good to see it come back to life; not to mention lemay could use the jobs

Terri said...

Montebello's Pizza is still my parents favorite place for pizza in St Louis. I grew up in Lemay, but rarely get back "home". I'm going this week (for a family funeral) and will definitely be making a stop at Montebello's. Their style pizza is definitely "St. Louis style"; a thin crisp cracker-like crust with Provel (a processed cheese mixture) cheese. The dining area is in the basement and is definitely not high in ambiance. Cusanelli's Pizza nearby is a nicer restaurant with similar style pizza.

M&K Design said...

This place has been in business for ages! My mother-in-law's cousin Ed is the owner. There used to be a tavern upstairs and that used to be how you would enter, through the tavern, and go down a long flight of stairs into the dining area. The current entrance did not used to be the main entrance. My parents used to go there on dates in the late 50's and took us kids there in the 60's. I love their Italian (homemade) sausage pizza. I haven't been there in a while, but hope to get back there soon!

Susan said...

Back in the 60's and 70's just across the street from Monte Bello's was a little corner store. Husband and wife sold bread, milk, twinkies (for 12 cents) and a gumball machine. If you got a speckled gumball you won free candy! It was called Fred's not sure what it was prior to that. I have fond memories of that section of town. I can still hear the Stupp Brother's lunch whistle.

Anonymous said...

Both my grand parents homes were within 2 blocks of Monte Bello's. I was fortunate to have grown up eating the best pizza on the planet. Also the best french fries, baked ravioli and anything else Italian.(Authentic recipes from the Patrillo family)I started going there back when the bar was still open upstairs. I worked at the restuarant for about 6 months in 1967 and made enough to buy my first car, a blue 1961 VW. It's hard to find and doesn't look like much but your taste buds will say WOW! WOW! WOW!

Keith said...

Ditto on the previous comment regarding the pizza being the best on the planet. All ingredients are home made and cooked fresh. Good prices too! Any time I get back to St.Louis from Texas I HAVE to go eat a pepperoni & bacon pizza at Monte Bello's.