Luigi’s and Lemucchi’s Grocery has been at its present location since 1910 and is one of Bakersfield’s oldest continuous family operated businesses.
Joe Lemucchi, the founder of the business, came to California from Lucca, Italy and started his original cafe on Sumner Street in 1906. Lemucchi married Emelia Degiuli, also an Italian immigrant, and the couple moved in 1910 to the present location of the business at 725 East 19th Street. The original store had family quarters in the rear where the couple’s 4 children, Louis, Lena, Harry and Helen, were born.
The early business featured a grocery, a cafe, a bakery and a gasoline station. 19th Street was the main thoroughfare between Bakersfield, and the then town of Sumner. The street car line from Bakersfield extended east on 19th Street and terminated at Baker Street.
East 19th Street also ended at the Lemucchi Store, merging into Edison Highway which became the main highway exiting and entering Bakersfield on the east side.
Joe Lemucchi catered to the many Italian immigrant families who came to Kern County in the early 1900’s. Some lived in the immediate neighborhood while many were engaged in farming and drove in for their groceries. The grocery store featured domestic and imported goods.
In the rear of his store Joe Lemucchi constructed several small cottages or apartments which were rented by bachelor Italian immigrants. Late afternoons and weekends would find groups of immigrants out back of the store under the grape arbor, discussing in Italian about the latest news and world events.
The cafe and grocery store were always lively places with visiting and shopping being conducted in several languages.
The now famous Luigi sandwich originated in the cafe where Joe and Emelia always had fresh stew, pasta sauce and minestrone soup for hungry customers. Small but intimate in the back corner of the grocery, the cafe was always a popular gathering spot.
After Joe Lemucchi’s death, Emelia and her son, Louis, continued the business. The bar was added next to the old store, and the restaurant expanded into the building to the east. In the 1920’s and 1930’s the concrete and steel structure now housing the restaurant, had been rented by Shell Oil Company and was at one time their Kern County Headquarters. The new expanded bar and restaurant were named “Luigi’s.”
Luigi was an incessant collector of photos and sports memorabilia, covering the walls of his business with photos of local athletes spanning more than ten decades. The photos displayed on the walls constitute only a small portion of Luigi’s pictorial collection.
The photos of Luigi’s are a constant attraction to multiple generations of Kern County patrons who return frequently to view a favored photo with a friend, relative or member of a new generation.
Since the death of Luigi in 1989, Luigi’s has been operated by a new generation of the Lemucchi family. Antonia Valpredo, daughters Monica, Lanette and son Gino are the third and fourth generations of the family to operate the popular East Bakersfield establishment.