Jerry Illich was born on the island of Brazza (Croatian Otok Brač) in 1850 or 1852. At the age of 13 he went to sea, and seven years later he jumped ship in San Francisco and started working in restaurants. Very possibly Illich got to know the Croatian family who had established San Francisco’s famous Tadich seafood restaurant during the Gold Rush. (Croatia was part of the Austro Hungarian Empire from 1867 to 1918 and frequently Croatian's birthplaces are given as Austria.)
Around 1877 he moved south to Los Angeles, which had just started growing explosively after the transcontinental railway connection went through in 1881 [My earliest record of Illich in LA is 1880. Two problems RR and his arrival]. Eterovich? has Jerry Illich with an fish house named "Ilich's sic Restaurant" in 1874. He started a small chophouse at 145 (N) Main [reference, because I have this as a residential address while 117 Main and 41-43 Main were restaurant addresses] and expanded it to two floors (source?). He made it into a fashionable hangout – he particularly catered to journalists (the original L.A. Times offices soon opened nearby) and politicians. The Kansas Club, later influential in L.A. city politics, was founded at a dinner at Jerry Illich’s.
In the process, he provided unwelcome competition for another recent (French) immigrant, Victorin Dol , who had opened the first serious French restaurant in town in 1873 [my earliest record is 1877] – later remembered as the first restaurant in Los Angeles that didn’t have dirt floors and barefoot cooks. At his Commercial Restaurant, just a block south of where Illich infuriatingly moved in, Dol was also catering to the City Hall crowd.
Both restaurants boasted that they had the finest ingredients, especially seafood, though the cuisines were different. When Illich died, it was remembered that he had “served ‘paste’ (pasta) and other foreign dishes.” As a Dalmatian, Illich would have had a strong Italian streak in his cuisine. (The site Victorian Downtown Los Angeles has a great photo history of early Main St. and Victorian DTLA at Wikipedia)
The Dol-Illich rivalry became legend. Dol advertised his restaurant as “the Delmonico’s of Los Angeles.” Illich referred to his own place as “the Delmonico’s of Los Angeles.” In the 1880s, Dol left the Commercial and opened a restaurant grandly titled La Maison Dorée (1877, my first reference), after the most fashionable restaurant in Paris at the time. Illich brought in a French chef as a partner (referred to in a newspaper ad as “the clever French cook, Mr. Bailhe”) and named the restaurant … La Maison Dorée. One imagines some heated words passing between Dol and Illich.
Meanwhile, he continued to run Jerry Illich’s, the largest restaurant in town – and a 24-hour restaurant, by the way. In 1894 he moved it to a three-story building (at right).
He retired just before the end of the century. In 1902 he died of Bright’s disease (the Los Angeles Times regularly reporting to the public on his condition) and was buried with a Masonic funeral. The carriages of his mourners extended for two blocks, and hundreds more came by trolley. Not bad for an immigrant kid.
Jerry Illich wasn't the only Illich in Los Angeles at the time. John Illich was also a restauranteur and was likely his nephew, cousin or brother—they lived together in 1882 when John was 15 years old and Jerry was 30, but after that had different residential addresses. John worked in Jerry's restaurant in the late 1880s and early 1890s before opening his own restaurants starting in 1891. And there were other Illichs in Northern California.
All of Jerry Illich's restaurant and residential addresses in Los Angeles. Los Angeles addresses for John Illich.
The next person we'll cover is Jack Marietich another early and long time restauranteur in Los Angeles
More Illich references (Will weave some of these into the above story)
Married Helen Stovell ca. 1892. ended up owning ranches in several parts of the state and considerable city property.
March 17, 1882: Illich and Giacomo Marietich (that's our Jake Marietich; the Giacomo shows he's also a Dalmatian) arrested for selling liquor without a license, first offenses.
October 15, 1882. Illich is again in the LA Time with a “melee” broke out ending up with the “restaurant had the appearance of having passed through an Iowa cyclone”. add copy of paper
Illich shows up at June 15, 1883 celebration by ‘Slavonians’ - Servians, Montenegrins et al. - remembering the battle of Kosovo, 1389.
June 3, 1893: Illich and other restauranteurs attended the wedding party of one of Marietich’s nieces, Rita Marietich, to Vincent Scarich.
July 21, 1896: restaurant address now given as 219 W. Third.
Dec. 9, 1900: ad for Del Monte Restaurant at 219-221 W. Third, explained as Jerry Illich's old place.
June 24, 1902: serious illness of Jerry Illich (Bright's disease). "Was the Delmonico of Los Angeles." Died Dec. 5 at home, 1018 S. Hill; had a Masonic funeral. A clubman. Largest restaurant in the city. Had been retired for several years. Funeral: carriages for two blocks, hundreds more attended by electric car. Estate estimated at $50,000.
Sad sequel: His son, Jerry Thomas Illich, was an Air Force pilot who died in an airfield accident at Toul in WWI. (The pilot who hit him was grief-stricken and wanted to shower flowers on the funeral procession, but in attempting it he himself crashed and is buried next to him.)
Thank you Charles Perry for giving me your draft of this page. Heavily edited, so all errors and omissions are mine.
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