After serving the Belmont Heights community for 50 years, Francelli’s—the Italian-American restaurant that first opened as a market in 1969—has closed up shop, adding to the string of old-school Italian-American restaurants that have closed, including Russo’s last year and Papalucci’s earlier this month.
Birthed in the late 1960s by children-of-immigrants Frank and Ellie Schillaci, hence the name “Francelli’s,” the space’s first foray into doing business revolved around creating one of the city’s first Italian markets. Finding it difficult to continually access the west side, where Santa Fe Imports had been serving Long Beach imported Italian goods since 1947, Frank and Ellie wanted a shop that would cater to the foot traffic of Belmont Heights.
Pastas, bottles of marinara, cold cuts, cheese and wines adorned the walls of the first iteration of Francelli’s, greeting customers visiting the neighboring Hunter Drug Pharmacy at the southeast corner of Redondo Avenue and Fourth Street.
The success of their deli then marked a foray into formal food service, bringing to Long Beach some of its first tastes of tried-but-true dishes like chicken marsala, tetrazzini, eggplant parmesan and other staples.
Come 1983, Frank and Ellie sold the business and, within the coming decades, Francelli’s would face a roller coaster of owner switches, loss of patronage and an overall decline in quality in an attempt to keep up with the smorgasbord-like menus of the 1990s and early 2000s and the fresh, farm-to-table style cuisine that marks many contemporary restaurants.
The current owners did not immediately respond for comment. The landlord of the building has also yet to return comment, so it is unclear if a new, restaurant tenant has been found or if the space will become something entirely different.
Editor’s note: This article originally stated it was on its 60th birthday; it has been corrected to 50th.
Francelli’s was located at 3404 E. Fourth St.
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