Our History

The Baratta's Story

Baratta’s recently celebrated over 30 years of serving Italian-American cuisine to the people of Des Moines and the years have zipped by. If you’ve been to the South Union restaurant, you’ve seen all of the photos on the wall documenting the history but you may not know all of it. They’ve said it before and they’ll say it again: you’re home when you’re at Baratta’s. That’s not just a saying—you really are in a home when you’re there! In fact, that’s how Baratta’s started!

How It All Began

The history of Baratta’s dates all the way back to the early 1920s when Antonio Baratta, his wife Filomena, and their children emigrated to the U.S. from the Italian village of Scala Coeli in the region of Calabria.

After operating a successful tavern in downtown Des Moines for many years, Antonio and Filomena purchased the house and commercial building located at the corner of South Union and Kirkwood, along with the two adjacent lots on Kirkwood to the west of the home. (This all would eventually become the Baratta’s restaurant we know and love today!)

A Family Operation from the Beginning

Antonio ran the grocery store in the small commercial building next to the home until the late 1960s when his son Charlie “Cat” Baratta and his wife Frances took over the business. After Antonio passed away in 1972, Charlie and Frances converted the store to Baratta’s Trattoria. It was a family operation from the beginning with Antonio’s other children Mike, John, Frances, and their spouses being involved at one time or another. Mike’s wife Marge was especially involved as a staple in the kitchen. 

After a few years, the restaurant expanded into the adjacent home, and Filomena moved into an apartment in the rear of the home. Filomena passed away in 1984, followed by Charlie’s passing in 1988 which left the restaurant to Mike and Marge.

Joe Gatto and the Kruger’s

In 1993, the Baratta family sold the restaurant to Joe Gatto and Lisa and Curt Kruger. The three had worked together in the restaurant business for over seven years. They were only 25 at the time they bought Baratta’s, but the family believed in them every step of the way. 

Being lifelong Southsiders, Joe and the Krugers knew how important it was to stick to the store’s Italian roots, so the menu wasn’t flashy and stuck to the classics. When Mike and Marge sold the restaurant they had one major request: the Baratta’s name lives on. 

Marge continued to work in the kitchen for several years after the restaurant was sold. Mike passed away in 1996, but Marge is well and continues to own the home at 19 Kirkwood. 

Baratta’s Catering

Seven years after the restaurant opened, Baratta’s started offering off-site catering services. Joe and Lisa saw the opportunity to bring the food customers loved straight to their customers. They began catering public events, corporate luncheons, private parties, and more, eventually offering dinner delivery of our full dinner menu to the south side of Des Moines. After often teaming up successfully with the State Historical Building, a partnership began.

Lunch at Café Baratta’s Begins

When the folks at the State Historical Building started looking for a team to take over their café space, Baratta’s was top-of-mind. Since 2005, Café Baratta’s has been at home on the third floor. At that point, the catering business had grown and it was the perfect time to expand.

Tunes on the Terrace

Teaming up with the Iowa Arts Council, Baratta’s began Tunes on the Terrace. Each Friday in May, June, and July, local musicians played a live acoustic set while customers took their lunch break. It was a fun way to learn more about local artists in a peaceful setting.

Events at the State Historical Building

The partnership with the State Historical Building has been seamless and we couldn’t be happier with how each and every event there turns out. Not only is the venue absolutely stunning, it’s full of multiple spaces available to rent—including the Grand Terrace, overlooking the East Village.

Banquet Services at Forté

Five years after opening Café Baratta’s, in 2010, Baratta’s took over the banquet services at Forté Banquet and Conference Center. The event center was home to everything from comedy shows to elegant weddings. All catered by Baratta’s, of course! Forté closed in 2023, but the fantastic memories still live on!

Partnering with Blank Park Zoo

In 2016, Baratta’s began working as the Blank Park Zoo’s exclusive caterer. Since then, they’ve catered weddings, birthdays, and more. One of the restaurant’s favorite events to cater is Zoobilation, a fundraiser supporting educational programs, veterinary care of the Zoo’s animals, conservation efforts, and educational programs.

Baratta’s Celebrates Over 30 Years

Each year is full of changes. The website makes it easier to find the menus and events coming up. Not to mention all of the changes at the restaurant! The dining rooms have gotten facelifts and the new bar now has booth seating. What will never change is Baratta’s dedication to its valued, loyal customers.