Last week, I looked at John Favara and his family, Part I. Since then, I have reached the conclusion that I could write a book about the Favara family and their lives in Itta Bena and beyond. When I was visiting in Itta Bena for the Ralph Lembo Blues Trail Marker unveiling, I kept thinking about the importance of immigrants in the history of this country. We who immigrated (that is all of our families of origins unless we are descendants of Native Americans) literally built this country. I opined to Rand that if I had been a guest speaker at the ceremony for Ralph Lembo, I would have talked about immigration, using it as a teachable moment for social empathy. A number of Italians emigrated from their native Italy to immigrate into the Mississippi Delta.
Italians were not the only immigrants to the Mississippi Delta, nor the only ones successful. I have uncovered many stories of people who were Jewish, Chinese, Asian Indian, and Latinx and what they brought to their adopted communities. Certainly, one cannot overlook the role that Africans played in the Delta either–through the involuntary servitude of enslavement and after.
The John Favara of Southern Cafe was born Giovanni Favara 1870 in Cornice, Italy. If you have ever researched census records, you know that dates of birth are often estimated, and that names may be misspelled. As the records were handwritten, they also may be illegible in places. John Favara was also listed as Favoro in some of the Itta Bena records. Newspapers also often misspelled names, thus other clues were necessary to gain as accurate a picture as possible. He and his wife Josephine, born Giuseppa Domina in Ceflu, Italy in 1884 had 7 children: John Hamilton, Jr., Sam S., Josephine, Lena, Joseph C. , Stella, and Ralph.
John Favara opened his Southern Cafe in 1911, and named it for the Southern railroad that bisected the two sides of Front Street. The depot sat across the street from the Southern Cafe, making the cafe convenient for passengers from the train.
The 1905 Sanborn shows no brick buildings on this block of S. Front Street. The fire of May 1905 destroyed an entire block and totaled 16 businesses. Contracts to rebuild of brick were let within days of the fire.
By 1909, every store on the first block of Front Street, the first two blocks of Baskett Street on both sides, and six of ten stores on the second block of Front Street were brick. The only restaurant identified was still the frame building near the west end of the second block.
By 1918, all but two stores in the second block were brick. John Favara had built his restaurant next to his grocery store mid-Front street in the final vacant lot showing in the 1909 Sanborn. In the 1920 census, he was identified as the proprietor of a restaurant instead of grocer.
In 1921, Favara bought the Mahoney Building on the corner and adjacent to the bank on Baskett, and owned a number of brick store buildings on S. Front Street by 1924. In 1928, Favara “completely remodeled” the restaurant, and it was described as “modern and up-to-date”, “all new fixtures” in the “latest style” and “artistically decorated and arranged” with large fans for cooling and “gorgeous lighting” to “add a soft glow to set off the beautiful pannelled [sic] mirrors surrounded by well finished mahogany” (The Clarion-Ledger, Aug 15, 1928, p. 10).
John Favara, Sr. died in 1941 after suffering a heart attack while opening his restaurant. Josephine died in 1970.