Steak through the Heart

Written by Niki D'Andrea Category: History Issue: January 2015
Group Mid-Level
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After nearly 60 years of slinging steaks, the oldest restaurant in the Valley, Monti’s La Casa Vieja, closed on November 17. The historical building on the corner of Mill Avenue and Rio Salado Parkway in Tempe will stay put, though the two men whose names are most associated with the property are long gone.

The simple Sonoran row house that evolved into an adobe hacienda was purportedly constructed between 1871 and 1873, as the family home of Connecticut transplant Charles Trumbull Hayden. Charles’ son, future U.S. Senator Carl Hayden, was later born in the “Hayden House” (pictured right). In 1889, the family relocated, and the Haydens began referring to their former residence as “La Casa Vieja” (Spanish for “The Old House”). Fast-forward to 1954, when a Minnesotan named Leonard Monti (pictured above) – who ran a 13-seat diner in Chandler called Western Tavern for several years – purchased the building and rechristened it Monti’s La Casa Vieja. Opening for business in 1956, Monti’s offered classic steakhouse fare like prime rib, burgers and shrimp cocktail (plus some notable Roman bread made in-house). It quickly became a popular place for local politicos and Mill Avenue meetups.

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Carl Hayden died in 1972. Leonard Monti lived to see the building added to the National Register of Historic Places before he passed away in 1997. Monti’s son, Michael, continued to operate the restaurant until selling the property to an unnamed developer who reportedly plans to build two high-rise towers on the site. Hayden House /La Casa Vieja will be preserved as part of the $200 million project. “They are willing to do something worthy with the land and historic structure,” Michael Monti told the Arizona Republic. “The tradition and history aren’t going away.”

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