Los Gatos Hotel black and white photograph
LODGING - Mariotti’s Los Gatos Hotel on the corner of W. Main Street and College Avenue. (Courtesy of Los Gatos Library and Museum History Project)

It seems that hardly a month goes by without the launch of a new restaurant in our historic downtown. The latest addition to the dining scene is Dar Restaurant and Bar, located in the little house that formerly housed 11 College Avenue and Nick’s Next Door. It’s owned and operated by the Shaquir brothers who brought their love of Mediterranean cuisine to Los Gatos.

The property was once the site of another family enterprise in the hospitality industry. For most of the 20th century, the land on the corner of W. Main Street and College Avenue was owned by the Mariotti and Puccinelli families.

Luigi “Louie” Mariotti was an Italian immigrant who arrived in California at age 25 with only $10.40 in his pocket. He first found employment as a ranch hand in Napa, earning $18 per month. But unlike many Italians who settled in wine country, Luigi spent time exploring other parts of our state.

bottling plant
INDUSTRIAL – Mariotti’s original Soda Works bottling plant. (Courtesy of Los Gatos Library and Museum History Project)

He made some money with a fruit business in San Francisco, worked for a short time in a soda works bottling plant in Los Angeles and returned to San Francisco where he was employed in various grocery, liquor and cigar businesses. After he learned that several hundred of his former countrymen had formed an “Italian Colony” near downtown Los Gatos, he decided to settle here in 1907 and build the Los Gatos Hotel on this corner.

Arranged marriages were customary in the Italian community during that era. After his bride, Elena Barbini, arrived from Italy in about 1910, Louie built a small family home and garden behind the hotel. To enhance the property, he commissioned an expert Italian stonemason to construct an ornate brick and stone wall along College Ave.

The property also included a carriage house and barn that Louie and Elena later converted into the Los Gatos Soda Works bottling plant. Their soda was popular at local baseball games, and the plant was reportedly used to illegally bottle wine during Prohibition. One of the few surviving Soda Works glass bottles is now in the permanent collection of the New Museum of Los Gatos (NUMU).

inscription black and white
BRICK & STONE – The inscription and historical plaque on the sidewalk have both been removed.
(Courtesy of Los Gatos Library and Museum History Project)

In 1912, Mariotti was fined $300 (about $7,500 today) when he was found guilty of selling liquor at his hotel. That episode was part of a long battle over prohibition in Los Gatos, dating back to the 1880s. The town was about equally divided between the “wets” and the “drys,” and the issue would not die for decades.

Louie and Elena had six children. In 1932, their daughter Julia married Reginald “Reggie” Puccinelli who became an active participant in the Mariotti family businesses. During the 1950s and early 1960s, Puccinelli operated Reggie’s Inn, in the southwest corner of the hotel. Reggie’s was a popular place to have a drink, especially for the men in town. Puccinelli’s décor featured his collection of antique rifles, swords, and bows and arrows, all tacked up on the walls. Mariotti’s Los Gatos Hotel burned down in 1968, and the site sat vacant until after the death of Julia Mariotti Puccinelli in 1995.

The original Mariotti home and Soda Works met the bulldozer in 1997, although portions were saved and incorporated into replicas on the same site. The impressive brick and masonry wall still stands, looking very much the same as it did over 100 years ago.

Recently, the Puccinelli family dedicated a park bench on the sidewalk in front of the long lost Reggie’s Inn.

For more information visit www.lostgatos.com.

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Alan Feinberg is a Los Gatos town historian and founder of the LOST Gatos Project. His mission is to generate enthusiasm among Los Gatos residents for remembering and preserving our town’s unique character and historic treasures before they’re lost forever.


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