When I discovered recently that I had the opportunity to get a house tour of the historic Green Parrot Restaurant, I immediately checked in with my five Amazing Cousins for recollections.
Then I drove by, only to discover that the Green Parrot is now an historic home up for sale. It's listed by our very own realtor, the Barry Upchurch Company.
My mother remembers we went there because it was my Nana's favorite. For the record, Nana was grandmother, or Nonna in proper Italian spelling—Alfia Balsamo Arnone, an immigrant from Tre Castagne (Three Chestnut Trees) Sicily, in the early 1900s.
Who could have guessed as a little girl in a lava-rock, two-room bungalow built by her daddy at the foot of Mount Etna,near Catania, that she would grow up to dine in a Kirkwood, Missouri limestone mansion-turned-restaurant—and be Nonna to five little American girls?
Nana arrived on Ellis Island by boat when she was 16, with her older sister and husband, Fred and Catherine Coco. The courage required to make a journey like that is hard to imagine, with little English language skills and less money.
Now back to the present, youngest girl cousin Corie Arnone Klotz, piped up first with Green Parrot memories. “Oh Yes! I remember eating honey butter on the rolls. Yum!”
Of course, none of us who were raised on Nana’s b’sghetti, ever met a carb we didn’t love. In the words of cousin number two, Char Arnone Ezell, of Michigan: “I have a memory for every carbohydrate that I ever ate.”
My mom remembers a live green parrot in a large cage near the foyer of the front screened-in porch. I recall a long table in a private room with beautiful wallpaper and bright and airy windows along one long wall. And the fried chicken.
My Man Friend knows his mom and dad would drive miles for good fried chicken, and he has a vague recollection of the Green Parrot.
The Green Parrot was built in 1915 by William Bopp, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The real estate broker, Barry Upchurch, believes it has maintained its original character and is a humble but family-friendly home with all the modern amenities.
“This is one of the best restoration jobs of any historic home in the St. Louis area,” Upchurch said recently.
“During the first open house it was over-flowing with former Green Parrot bus boys, waitresses and patrons, all wanting to see, visit and reminisce," he said.
“I remember it well,” said Joyce Franklin, Sunset Hills Historical Society past president and local historian. “Ben Toothman, the owner of the Green Parrot, was also a wedding photographer. He did two of my daughters’ weddings.”
“I remember eating at the Green Parrot,” said Kathy Spross, volunteer coordinator at Feed My People. “My eighth grade birthday party was held there.”
It seems the historic home can conjure up the best of memories, laughs and sentimental moments with family—reminding us of our beginnings. Nana would have been pleased.
Special thanks to my cousin, Donna Cox—not the Italian side but the German side of my family—who got me on the preview house tour.
The Green Parrot home is at 12120 Old Big Bend Rd. in Kirkwood, and is listed with Barry Upchurch Realty.