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By Carmen Ensinger
Sue Ellen Houseman grew up in Carrollton and still calls it her home, but her family’s roots began in Calhoun County when her grandfather and grandmother, Adolph (Rudolpho) and Mary Rastello, bought a building in Hardin and started Rastello’s Restaurant and Bar way back in 1930.
That building is still standing today and, in fact, just received a complete make-over and is now home to PCRE Real Estate and The Rastello Room, an event room for special occasion of all types, being it weddings, birthdays, proms, baby showers, anything that requires a space for people to gather.
The building was bought by Cindy Borrowman Kamp, owner of PCRE Real Estate, who completely remodeled the building and noticed the brick at the top of the building that said “Rastello”. She did a little research and learned the history of the building and its owners and found out that the Houseman was a direct descendant of the owners of the building.
“I called Sue Ellen and asked her if she would mind if I called it the Rastello Room and she was just thrilled with the idea,” Kamp said. “She loved the idea that the family name would live on in Hardin.”
Houseman said she was indeed thrilled when she received the call from Kamp.
“First of all, I loved that she had restored the building, because it had become pretty run down over the years” Houseman said. “Secondly, I loved that she wanted to name it after my family who had immigrated here from Italy in the early 1900’s. When she said she wanted to call it the ‘Rastello Room’ I was thrilled.”
Rudolpho Guiseppe Rastello was born in 1888 to John and Rosa Rastello. In 1906, at the tender young age of only 18, he had saved up enough money to book passage on a ship sailing for America where he hoped to build a better life for himself.
He vowed to send for his mother and two sisters as soon as he had earned enough money to pay for their passage to America.
“When my grandfather landed at Ellis Island and they asked him his name, he told them it was Rudolpho,” Houseman said. “But I guess they didn’t know how to spell it or something because they told him there was no one in America named that and that from now on his name would be Adolph. My father wanted to be an American so bad that he literally changed his name to be in America so from the day he landed in America he became Adolph Rastello, even though his real name was Rudolpho.”
Rastello did not speak a word of English when he landed in America, so in addition to the name change, his initial destination in America was also fouled up.
“He was supposed to go to Granville, Ohio where he was to work in the coal mines,” Houseman said. “But since he didn’t speak the language, they sent him to Greenville, which is how he came to be in this area.”
There were no mines in Greenville, nor were there any Italian speaking citizens, so he was sent to Benld to a boarding house that was run by Italians. When he found out there was no work in Benld, he found out there were some men at the local tavern who were getting ready to go to Lead, SD to work in the gold mines. He went to the bar and asked if he could go with them and was told he could.
He went with them to the boarding house they were staying at owned by John and Catherine Laurenti and their family, which is where he met his future wife, Mary Josephine Laurenti.
Adolph and Mary had their first child, a son, Alfredo, in 1912, then a daughter, Rosie Catherine, in 1914 and in 1925 a second daughter, Betty Jean, which was Houseman’s mother.
They lived in California until 1930 when the family made the move to Hardin.
“My grandmother bought the building in 1930 during the Great Depression and then she and grandpa obtained an improvement loan and added 20 feet on the back,” Houseman said. “They also added the top story, where they lived, and put in the brick that says ‘RASTELLO’S’”.
Adolph made good on his promise of bringing his mother and two sisters over from Italy in 1921. The three came to live with the family, who were living in Collinsville at the time.
Unfortunately, Adolph’s wife, Mary, would die in 1938 from a blood clot, leaving his mother, Rosa, to care for a 12 year old Betty and help out in the restaurant.
Houseman recalls stories her mother told her of working in the restaurant when she was younger.
“I remember my mom telling me stories about having to stand on milk crates to reach the sink to do the dishes because she was so small,” she said. “They would serve meals on Sunday of Fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy and all the trimmings for like 50 cents and they worked their tails off, but that is how they made it here. They worked and they worked hard.”
The Kamps have worked hard as well getting the building into the shape it is now. They have spent the better part of a year getting it into the showplace it is now. A video was playing on the big screen television on the wall which showed the building before they started the remodel.
“We pretty much had to gut the building and start over,” Kamp said. “I can’t even begin to tell you how many dumpsters we filled taking out all the material we removed from the inside and there is still more upstairs to get rid of.”
The interior of the building is something to behold. It is rustic in nature, using a combination of old barn wood and tin.
“We obtained the barn wood and tin from an old Amish barn from up around Martinsburg,” Kamp said. “We really like the way it turned out.”
Others seem to like it as well as Kamp said the venue is booked over the weekends until the end of the year.
“We have something in here every weekend for the rest of this year, whether it is a bridal shower, birthday party or something else,” she said. “We can also rent it out during the week if someone wants to, but the weekend is the main time people want to schedule events.”
There is one thing that will take place every Wednesday night from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Rastello Room – Vendor Event.
“Beginning Oct. 6 and running through Dec. 15, every Wednesday night, we will have around nine vendors set up in here selling their items,” Kamp said. “I know All About You Boutique in Carrollton plans to come over here and sell their boutique items.”
Houseman’s most prized possession is a drawing her father, Neil Carrico drew of the bar area of Rastello’s in 1941. The drawing comes with its own story.
“The large photo was lost for the longest time and we didn’t know where it had gotten to,” Houseman said. “Then, Suzanne Roundcount called me and said she had found this picture in one of her rental houses and it had the name “Carrico” on the bottom of it and knew my maiden name was Carrico.”
Apparently, Roundcount’s former renters had purchased the picture at an auction and left it behind when they moved. Roundcount returned the picture to its rightful owner and, as they say, the rest is history.
“It is the only drawing that I have of the bar,” Houseman said. “And it is the only thing I have that was drawn by my father.”