Newsletter Archive: May 2003 “Rio Salado Screed-O”

Subject: Montis Rio Salado Screed-o…May ’03…A Fateful Hand of Cards
Welcome to another farrago of hack writing, poorly documented history and
crass self-promotion from the sun-baked banks of the Rio Salado! And thanks,
by the way, to all of you loyal Monti’s patrons who gave us a booming
Mother’s Day.
As usual, before getting to the meat (pun intended) of the matter, some

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from me ever, please send me (Michael Monti) a message at
and I will gladly remove you from my distribution group. (See end of this
message for more details.)

Each time I write this newsletter I intend to tell some of the fascinating
stories about our place, located in the Valley’s oldest continuously
occupied structure–The Hayden House/La Casa Vieja. Today: How the Casa
Vieja wound up as stakes in a card game.

My Dad, Leonard F. Monti, Sr., had always told me about learning during the
early 1950s of the historical significance of the old Hayden House, also
known as La Casa Vieja, while listening to a radio show on Arizona history
put on by Bert Fireman, a Phoenix newspaperman who later co-founded the
Arizona Historical Foundation with Barry Goldwater. Leonard was a well-read
history buff. (He had made up for the lack of a formal education caused by
economic adversity by being a voracious reader, especially of history.) What
Leonard never shared with me during his lifetime was the specific manner in
which he came to purchase the property in 1954.

According to my brother Konrad, it was a fateful hand in a high-stakes poker
game down in Tucson that brought the Casa Vieja into the Monti family. Tom
Walker, a friend and customer of Leonard’s from the Western Tavern in
Chandler, was in the game. Walker had been a military pilot during the war
and was released later for poor eyesight, so he went into real estate. Late
at night, long into the game, a player ran out of cash. Wanting to stay in,
he whipped a folded document from his pocket and, laying it on the table,
announced that it was the deed to La Casa Vieja, in Tempe.

[Now a brief commercial announcement, then I will continue…]

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16 oz. King Cut Prime Rib
Three Fried Shrimp
In-season vegetable and choice of side dish
Our Classic House Salad
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Tempe, or to reserve at the Mesa Grill on 1233 S Alma School call

[…and back to the story…]

Recognizing a golden opportunity for Leonard, Walker slammed his hand down,
stopped the game, and drove like a bat out of hell through the desert night
up to Chandler, where he awakened Leonard and urged him to come down
immediately and purchase the building. (Apparently, having lived through the
Great Depression, Leonard had squirreled away enough cash in the mattress to
be able to come up with a credible down payment in the middle of the night.
The purchase price, by the way, was $19,000.00 )

True story? Hard to say. An uncharitable soul might claim that Konrad
Monti–a model, actor and a polished raconteur–would not allow a slight
veracity deficit to diminish the dramatic value of an otherwise great tale.
On the other hand, there is some great circumstantial evidence. First, the
actual deed was in the name of a Nellie Covert, of Tucson. Additionally, a
Tucson notary public stamped the deed transferred in the sale. A final piece
of the puzzle was provided by the Gilmore family of Tempe. They brought in a
menu from Leonard’s 1946-1956 period at the Western Tavern in Chandler. On
the back of the menu are several advertisements from local businesses, one
of which is “Walker Realty.” You be the judge; I like the poker story.
In other Monti’s news, I am pleased to announce that a new Kitchen Manager
has joined us at Monti’s La Casa Vieja. [PERSONA NON GRATA] has recently moved to
Arizona from xxxx, where he spent several years working for XXXXX
Restaurants in a number of their establishments, including the XXXX
Mountain Inn. [PNG] also is a past Head Chef at XXXX Brewery. [PNG] has a
dual mission of maintaining the quality and consistency of Monti’s classic
menu items while unleashing his creative talents to add new items.

Our dynamic new General Manager, [PNG], has been making great strides.
As a reward to those of you who have stuck with this rambling rag so far,
here is a special offer: The first reader (Monti’s staff excluded!) who
corners [PNG] while dining at Monti’s and says “I know that your secret
nickname is ‘Chivo’.” will receive a $25 gift certificate. All subsequent
attempts through 8/31/03 will be rewarded with a consolation prize of [PNG]’s
choice, ranging from $1 off to whatever he feels like after being called
“Chivo” for the 82nd time.

I enjoyed some great feedback from the first letter, though I did hear a
little japing from Wesley Trimble (a third-generation family member in the
Tempe Rotary Club.) about SPAM. I also got some very polite “remove”
requests which I have honored. No flames or blue language, to my pleasant
surprise. Thanks for your attention, and watch for the next edition somewhen
between now and 6/12/03. And remember, the only part of your body this SPAM
promises to enlarge is your waistline!

Sincerely, Michael “A great steak at a great price in Tempe’s pioneer home,
built in 1871”

Links pertaining to the above: Serve and enrich your community. Get some landscaping from Wes’ company so he’ll leave me
alone. Self-explanatory How to book Marshal Trimble, our State
Historian, or Dolan Ellis, State Balladeer, if you love Old West lore… Konrad is the dashing fellow on
the right

Please tell your friends to sign up for our newsletter at:

HOW TO GET OFF MY LIST INSTANTLY: If you do not want to receive any e-mail
from me ever, please send me a message at and I will
gladly remove you from my distribution group. If you don’t want to take any
chances you can remove your e-mail from my database at
Just enter your e-mail to do so.
You are receiving this because you know me or are related to me, (you or
someone purporting to be you) has given me your business card or filled out
a promotional drawing slip, have requested a donation or sent me an e-mail
for some other reason, or you gave your address to me on a customer comment
card. I do not wish to intrude, and no harsh invective is required to
motivate me to remove you from my list. Just ask. You can also call
(480)967-7594 or fax (480)967-8129 and leave a message requesting removal
(be sure and spell out your e-mail address).


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