Lost Tables | Remembering Stan Musial & Biggies

Warren Hearnes and Julius “Biggie” Garagnani, 1960s


Ever wondered what happened to that restaurant you once loved and have memories of dining at with your family and friends? We did! There is an amazing website called Lost Tables, dedicated to celebrating the restaurants of our past. We are partnering with the site’s creator Harley Hammerman and celebrating these wonderful stories. Hammerman and his wife Marlene are members of Shaare Emeth, and she is past president of the National Council of Jewish Women of St. Louis.   Visit Lost Tables on Facebook 

Julius “Biggie” Garagnani, the son of an Italian immigrant miner, grew up on the Hill during the Great Depression. Born April 28, 1913, he left school following the fourth grade and worked odd jobs, including bootlegging, eventually driving a trash truck for the city of St. Louis.

Garagnani became involved in local Democratic politics, serving as a precinct captain prior to his twenty-first birthday. He emerged as a significant force in state Democratic activities, especially in Warren Hearnes’ gubernatorial campaigns as a fund-raiser. Twice he attended the Democratic National Convention as a delegate.

However, Biggie Garagnani did most of his stumping as a restaurateur.

Biggie and his brother Mike took over the Brass Key, a nightclub at 5443 Magnolia, in the late 1930s. In November of 1946, Biggie and Charles Re, his manager at the Brass Key, took over Cafe 66 at 6435 Chippewa.

The steak house at 6435 Chippewa was soon rebranded as Biggie & Charlie’s and then Biggie & Charlie’s Steak House. Organist Stan Kann became a fixture at the restaurant in early 1948. And by February of 1948, Charles Re had been bought out and the restaurant became simply Biggie’s Steak House.

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In a July 1950 article in Sport magazine, Biggie Garagnani told sportswriter J. Roy Stockton how he met Stan Musial.

I met him in the late Sam Breadon’s office when he was just a kid in the major leagues. I had arranged days for some of the ballplayers, starting with a couple of boys who growed up on The Hill, a St. Louis Italian neighborhood, and was with Mr. Breadon in his office when Stan comes in and Mr. Breadon introduces us.I didn’t know it then, but the first time Stan walks into my place and sees all the people eating and listening to music, he decides he wants to go into the restaurant business. That’s the way he is, he likes people and likes to talk to them. After that, he and his family come to my restaurant pretty regular and we get to talking business. Then one day, he asks me if I want to go hunting, and we go hunting. We go two, three times a week, and you get to know a guy pretty well when you go on hunting trips.

The star outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals began his major league career in 1941. However, until 1948, Musial and his family spent the off season away from St. Louis at his birthplace and home in Donora, Pennsylvania, about 40 miles from Pittsburgh.

 “In 1948, my wife and I decided to make our home in St. Louis,” Musial recalled. “I think it’s wise for a baseball player to make his home where he’s made his reputation. I always worried about my baseball career, about getting hurt, and I wanted a business to fall back on.”

However, Musial had just paid cash for his new home and had little capital to invest. Biggie was undeterred.

Biggie proposed that Musial’s contribution would be $25,000, representing half of the restaurant’s value. He suggested Musial, for his half ownership, compensate him from his share of the profits.

Musial officially became Biggie’s partner in January of 1949. But Musial was no ordinary partner, as Biggie well knew. He sought to capitalize on Musial’s star status and enormous popularity, renaming the restaurant Stan Musial and Biggie’s Steak House.

There is so much more to tell of this amazing story. Click here to read more about the entire history of Stan Musial & Biggies