Former Anticoli restaurant closed for decades could be reborn

The past, present and future of the Dayton restaurant scene are converging at one tiny and all-but-forgotten building just east of downtown Dayton.

There hasn’t been any restaurant activity inside the building for decades. But boy, if those walls could talk.

The building at 1511 E. Fifth St. was the birthplace of what would become — and continues to be — the longest-established, continually operating restaurant family in the Miami Valley.

For 85 years, an Anticoli has owned and operated a restaurant in the Dayton area. But it’s never been easy — right from the start. Antonio and Sarah Anticoli first opened a restaurant called “The Rendezvous” on New Year’s Eve in that little storefront at 1511 E. Fifth Street in 1931, offering sandwiches, spaghetti, hamburgers and meatballs.

The first day’s sales totaled 5 cents. But it was a start. And besides, Antonio and Sarah didn’t have to travel far to operate their brand new restaurant. They lived right next door, at 1509 E. Fifth St.

The couple had three children and continued to operate The Rendezvous for about 20 years, renaming it “Anticoli’s” a few years before moving their restaurant to Salem Avenue. There, Anticoli’s grew in popularity and size, hitting its heyday under the direction of Antonio and Sarah’s three children during the 1960s and 1970s, when thousands of Dayton-area families chose Anticoli’s for wedding receptions, family gatherings, high school reunions or a quick weeknight dinner.

Antonio and Sarah’s son Leo would go on to operate Caffe Anticoli in Clayton and Giuliano’s Anticoli Tavern in Miamisburg before retiring at age 80 in June 2015. Leo’s son Michael still operates La Piazza in Troy.

And what became of the place where it all began? It sat vacant for decades and was part of a property purchase last year by Megan Smith, a Columbus native who moved to Dayton a couple of years ago after spending a decade in Lexington, Ky. Smith bought both the house where Antonio and Sarah raised their three children at 1509 E. Fifth St., and the small, deteriorating commercial building next door at 1511 E. Fifth St. Her plans call for opening a bakery and coffee shop in the two-story former residence, and she hasn’t yet decided what the adjoining former restaurant will become.

Smith had no idea of the building’s background. Few people alive do.

But here's one man who does: Leo Anticoli. He read my story headlined "New bakery in the works on East Fifth Street in Dayton" that appeared online Friday and in Saturday's Dayton Daily News, and emailed me.

“The house at 1509 E. Fifth St. is where I grew up and attended Holy Trinity School, and the adjoining building at 1511 East Fifth Street is where Mom & Dad began their restaurant, serving the neighborhood and kids from Stivers. It was popular. They even had a full band playing in an outside ‘beer garden’ during the World War II years, with dancing etc. The area behind the building I believe is still paved in cement due to the ‘beer garden’ location.

“It’s now 67 years later and the location is again viable. It’s great to see it happen. I wish the new tenant the success we had.”

I passed along Leo’s note to Megan, who was thrilled to discover the link to Dayton’s restaurant history.

“This is such a fascinating story,” she said. “I’d love to integrate a few bits of historic nostalgia back into the building — and of course give Mr. Anticoli a personal tour before we open!”

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