On the corner of Wilson and Marconi a tavern was built and operated by Anheuser-Busch as early as 1902. With the onset of Prohibition, it was considered a bad investment to continue operation. So the business was sold and purchased by the Merlo family and was named Merlo’s. In Italy, Merlo and his family were farmers and worked pitching hay. When he came to America he was known as Forchett, relating to his use of his pitchfork, forchetta. Mr. Merlo was a very religious man. He was famous for not serving drinks whenever a service was conducted in St. Ambrose Church. His motto was “You don’t drink when you should be praying!”
In the 1950s, after the death of Mr. Merlo, his sons, Joe and Henry ran the business. Following their ownership, the building was believed to be a tavern owned by Abel Pezzani, more often referred to as “Toots” Pezzani. Toots ran the business until it was taken over by Joe “Bull” Panneri. So in the ’60s the bar was then named “Wil-Mar Lounge” because it was the corner of Wilson and Marconi. During the period that the bar was owned by Joe Panneri he took on partners including Gene “P.I.” Pisoni and Charles “Butch” Grassi. Around 1975 Joe Panneri and Butch Grassi sold the business to Tom Savio and Joe Calcaterra and again the name changed to Milo’s Tavern. When Tom Savio and Joe Calcaterra purchased Wil-Mar they wanted to keep the name but decided to change it in an attempt to repair the image of the bar within the community. On the final day before signing the papers, Tom Savio “made up the name Milo’s out of thin air”. Shortly after the decision, Tom Savio realized that Milo’s contained all of the letters from the intersection of Wilson & Marconi thereby maintaining the history of the original location. In ’78 Tom and Joe dissolved their partnership, leaving Tom Savio and his family to run the enterprise.
In 1989, Savio sold half the business to Joesph Vollmer. At this time they added the Bocce courts and full kitchen. Fortunately, every time the business was sold the new proprietors were families from the Hill neighborhood.
Basically the business has not changed from the little corner tavern patronized by tired, Italian immigrant men stopping for a drink with friends after long hours working in the mines and brickyards. Milo’s remains an oasis for anyone wishing to share a drink and lively conversation – just like the early immigrants who pioneered the neighborhood.
History Courtesy of Eleanor Berra Marfisi: Italians In St. Louis