The following article appeared in the August 2022 issue of St. Louis Magazine, under the title “Louie, Louie.”
Cue the Kingsmen and their rock hit from 1963: “Louie, Louie. Oh no. Me gotta go. Aye-yie-yie…” And you should go. In this case, to Vangel’s Restaurant & Bar, the newish Italian restaurant in Warson Woods owned and operated by Louie Vangel, the 35-year-old grandson of Charlie Gitto Sr., proprietor of the legendary Charlie Gitto’s downtown, which closed early last year, several months after his death. (Vangel, who managed the location for its final 11 years, says a water leak prompted the closure. “I felt my grandfather saying, ‘It’s over. Forget about it. Move on,’” Vangel says.) So he did, opening his own namesake restaurant in June of this year. “Even though the name is Vangel’s, to me it’s simply our downtown restaurant, moved west. Everything we built there I hope to carry on,” he says.
A pared-down menu presents all of the favorites. “Most people know what they want before they even get here,” Vangel says. “Calamari, toasted ravioli, chicken Parm, scampi, baked lasagna, pasta, and ‘Grandpa’s veal…’” Grandpa’s chair, a leather, slightly rickety barstool showing its age, sits at a corner of the bar, just as it did downtown. On the wall is a photo tribute showing Gitto Sr. on that stool, surrounded by friends and family. There’s the “Lasorda table,” an homage to former L.A. Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, who is credited with “keeping [the downtown] Gitto’s on the map.”
In Warson Woods, the décor is more casually elegant than the red-checked-tablecloth vibe downtown. Etched glass panels (each with a scripted V in the center) divide the 100-seat dining room from the 40-seat bar, where such drinks as the Goldie, Group Chat, and Man Crush are meant to elicit conversation, as will the restaurant’s name. “There are remembrances of Gitto’s,” Vangel says. “That’s our family, but we wanted this one to be ‘authentically us,’ so Vangel’s Restaurant & Bar it is.”