This year Roy's Club owners Evo and Catherine Fanucchi are celebrating the restaurant's 70th anniversary at the same location at 218 D Street in Eureka.
According to long-time customer and President and CEO of Professional Property Management, Ted Loring, it is a rare treat to have one restaurant operating in a community for so long.
Loring has been visiting Roy's since he was a child fifty-nine years ago. "Dinner out was always special," Loring remembered, "And Roy's was one of the standards. None of the other great old places even exist anymore."
Loring is also a historic preservation advocate and sees the value in preserving such a community icon,
pointing out that Old Town was once the center of the community.
"The story of the Fanucchi family starts before the depression and takes us to current day. It reminds us that early on in our community's history, there was a strong Italian presence in Humboldt County. Our local history is rich with architectural and cultural history. It is worth the trip to old town just to sit at the bar and hear stories from Evo," he said. Evo Fanucchi, now 93 years old, still serves drinks every Friday at the bar he built years ago, illuminated by his handcrafted copper lights that hang from the ceiling.
The building started as a sausage factory before the turn of the century, and his parents, Italian immigrants Angelo and Teresa Fanucchi, bought the building in 1919, the same year the 18th amendment was ratified, prohibiting the manufacture, sale, transport, import, or export of alcoholic beverages. "The building was divided into two sections," Catherine Fanucchi explained. "The Cigar store on one side, and a speakeasy [illegal bar] was hidden on the other." Evo, his parents, brother Roy and sister Ida lived in the upstairs apartment and watched the drama of prohibition unfold.
"Alcohol was illegal, but everyone took bribes, including the Sheriff," Evo remembered. "They'd all be drinking here one week and the next week they'd raid us. " Fortunately one of Evo's uncles worked in the Sheriff's office and would give a warning call before a raid. "My dad would know to leave alcohol out, not in the open, but in an easy place to find. Once the officers found a bottle, they would stop the raid and not bust up the place." Angelo would spend a week or two in jail and pay a fine. "The fine was really just the cost of to keep open the rest of the year," Evo added. While his dad served his time, Evo and Ida would hang out at the jail while his mother prepared home cooked meals for the "prisoners". "None of the doors were locked and it was a fun place to play," he said. Evo also remembers the "girls", prostitutes that worked in the brothel next door and the business cards they handed out to potential customers. One is framed and hangs on the restaurant wall.
Billie Holiday was also a regular customer during her many short stays in Humboldt County where promoters hoped she'd "dry out". Holiday would perform at a nearby hotel/cabaret and then visit the bar at Roy's Club with her two body guards to hang out and chat, paying special attention, Evo remembered, to his brother Roy.
By 1934 prohibition was repealed but the challenges didn't end for the Fanucchi family. Angelo was Italian and was refused a liquor license. His American born son Roy had to get it instead. Then, during World War 2, despite their American children and Roy's enrollment in the military, Italians Angelo and Teresa were labeled "enemy aliens" and forced from their home near th˜e bay. "They had to be at least four blocks from the waterway," Catherine explained. Only after Evo joined the military was the family considered sufficiently American and allowed to return to their Old Town apartment. The family continued to operate the business with the brothers eventually doing most of the work. Then, in 1991 Roy, who had worked as a cook while Evo worked the "front of the house" or bar, passed away. In 1993, Evo and his wife Catherine purchased the business from the family.
The couple has maintained as much tradition as possible while modernizing Roy's where it made sense. The eatery still uses the first pizza oven in Humboldt County to bake their pizza pies. But a 1998 addition to the building allowed Roy's to expand their whole sale operations and make pastas, salad dressings, and marinara sauce among other things. "It really was a natural progression of the business," Catherine observed. "Especially with the challenges in the economy.
The wholesale products allow people to enjoy premium, restaurant quality food that they can prepare at home." Roy's original lasagna, cannelloni, ravioli, meat, cheese, smoked salmon ravioli can be found at Roy's on-location deli as well as local markets such as Co-Op stores, Ray's , Murphy's, Safeway and WinCo. The salad dressing, marinara, pastas & polenta mix can be found at local markets such as Co-Op stores, Ray's , Murphy's, Safeway and WinCo.
Roy's also provides two banquet rooms for meetings, conferences and parties. One room is located in the original Roy's building and the other, located across the street from the restaurant in the old Metropole hotel, can seat up to eighty people. Roy's restaurant and Deli can provide catering to either location.
Roy's Club Italian Restaurant, located at 218 D St, in Old Town, Eureka, is open 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
For more information or to make reservations, call 707-442-4574.