NewsThe SouthSider

Piazza Imo dedication in The Hill stirs joy, thanksgiving

THE HILL – A mass of happy Italians and Italians-for-the-day packed Marconi Street and the area in front of St. Ambrose Catholic Church on Sunday to dedicate and bless the gleaming new Piazza Imo. 

As a Italian band played “Three Coins in the Fountain,” people flooded the piazza across Marconi from St. Ambrose, 5130 Wilson Ave. 

The song was from a 1954 romantic comedy about three American women who live together in Rome and toss three coins into that city’s Fountain of Trevi. The story follows them as each sees her wish for love answered.

So it was that wishes for a piazza worthy of The Hill neighborhood came true, after a committee raised $1.3 million, much of which came from Ed and Marge Imo. Referring to a slogan the Imos use for their pizza stores, some called it “The Square Beyond Compare.”

But some also might credit the success to prayer.

“Today is all about joy and thanksgiving,” St. Ambrose’s pastor, Msgr. Vincent Bommarito, said at a prayer service held in his church before the dedication. “It is a time of gratitude to God for a dream that has come true.” 

Bommarito told the faithful during the service that the piazza would be a sacred place.

“The whole purpose of the piazza is to come and sit,” Bommarito said. “It’s going to bring people to The Hill.”

When the service concluded, those in the church moved out to the street to join others for the dedication on a steamy afternoon.

Joseph Ambrose, a member of the committee that worked on the project, said many construction projects were going on in the area. 

“You will not find a more beautiful project, any more beautiful in this region than Piazza Imo,” Ambrose said. “What began as an idea, a dream, many years ago has evolved into what you see today.”

Four years ago, Bommarito assembled a committee to decide what should go on the property, Ambrose said. Various ideas were proposed, but the discussion always went back to a piazza. In Italy, it’s common to have such a gathering place in front of a church, Ambrose said.

Now an effort is ongoing to raise $1 million for a perpetual maintenance fund, Ambrose said. Despite that work ahead, enough was finished Sunday for Bishop Mark Rivituso to bless the piazza.

“What a beautiful accomplishment by so many, and what a beautiful reflection of the importance of gathering in this neighborhood community as well as all the visitors who will come here,” Ritivituso said. “This is a good way in which we remind ourselves of the holy pause, a pause in which we remind ourselves of what’s really important about life.”

Mayor Lyda Krewson said the building of the piazza could not have happened without everyone’s cooperation.

“Thank you for this fabulous gift to the city, and thank you for this fabulous gift to The Hill,” Krewson said. “This neighborhood is the anchor for our city, and I personally love visiting it.”

Tenth Ward Alderman Joe Vollmer, who represents The Hill, spoke of the care taken in the piazza project.

“What changes here is always slow, well thought out and well developed, because we care,” Vollmer said.

Jim Merkel Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit

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