Prohibition ended 80 years ago, December 5, 1933 at 5:32 p.m., as the 21st Amendment was ratified. Last Thursday, Volpi’s was the site for a local historical celebration. The U.S. Constitution prohibiting the manufacture, sale, and importation of intoxicating liquors was ratified on January 16, 1919. Its provisions went into force a year and a day later on January 17, 1920, and remained in effect until the 21st Amendment, which repealed the 18th Amendment. During prohibition, there was a speakeasy bar at Volpi’s that is steeped in prohibition-era history. Volpi’s had been ion business as a grocery store since 1925. A restaurant was added later in 1992. A plaque is on the side of the building at 124 Washington Street, dedicated by E Clampus Vitus #1004 on August 8, 1992, that reads as follows:

How man Petalumans know what businesses occupied the spot where Volpi’s Ristorante & Bar (124 Washington Street) and Volpi’s Italian Market Deli & Bar (122 Washington Street) are located today, back then? Thanks to John Fitzgerald, a Petaluma Historical Museum & Library volunteer who studied the Sanborn Insurance Map collection in the Hoppy Hopkins Research Library at the Museum, who came up with the following information pertaining to the lots on the northeast corner of Keller & Washington Streets. (Approximately 90′ x 50′ in size.)

1883 Map – A one story building with a shingle roof, included a Blacksmith Carriage Shop with a Machine Shop in the rear.


1894 Map – Same building: Wagon Shop & Storage Space


1906 Map – Same Building: WAgon Shop, WAgo Storage, plus storage in the rear.

1910 Map – New Building: Grocery Store & storage

Today, the Volpi family still operates the restaurant and bar. John Volpi and his sister Silvia have both entertained customers in the back bar for decades. John is an avid accordion player, as was his father who purchased the grocery store and bar in 1925. Volpi’s continues to be a family and community center for Italian accordinan muscians.*

*Online source of information – Volpi’s: A story of speakeasies, squeezeboxes and family

Stay tuned for more “Then & Now” stories about historic spots in our favorite river town.