Geneva Illinois’s Oldest Restaurant .:. The Little Owl Restaurant
Geneva’s oldest continuously operating restaurant and tavern was founded in 1920 by Egisto `Tony’ Lencioni. The restaurant was originally located in the Albertson Building (117WestState) which was later occupied by Johnsons Cleaners.
Tony is also credited with giving The Little Owl its colorful name. The story goes that the name had its origin from a conversation Tony had with the White Owl Cigar salesman. The salesman, noting that the establishment had no name, and, seeing the possibility for a little free advertising suggested: “Tony, why don’t you call the place “The White Owl?” The proprietor responded in his broken English:”No, I tink I call et `de Lettle Owl'. The name stuck. It has remained The Little Owl ever since.
In 1926 the restaurant expanded and moved to the frame building next to the fire station (9 South First Street).
Here the Lencioni’s served homemade pasta and soups. It has also been reported that during prohibition it was possible to obtain homemade Italian wine,commonly referred to as”Dago Red.”
In 1935 The Little Owl moved to its present location in ”The Wrate Block” at the Northwest corner of State and First Streets (101 West State). Tony and his son Victor operated the business until 1947 when it was purchased by the Arbizzani family who still run it to this day.
Many years have passed and dozens of restaurants and taverns have come and gone but The Little Owl continues to be a landmark among Geneva eating and drinking establishments.
Information courtesy of The Geneva Historical Society Photos by C. Arbizzani