From its humble roots as a tamale factory in the 1920s, “the Coney” has grown into a community institution. Operated continuously by three generations of the Galletti family, the popular restaurant and bar is a gathering place for people of all backgrounds, where newcomers are made to feel as welcome as the regulars playing pinochle in the corner.
Ralph Galletti, a native of Genoa, Italy, first brought the family into the restaurant business in 1922 when he bought a downtown Reno confectionary called the Sugar Plum. The café specialized in raviolis, enchiladas, and a popular local dish, tamales. Much of the food preparation occurred on the family property in what later became known as the Coney Island neighborhood near Sparks, on land purchased by Ralph’s father-in-law, John Gallo, around 1905. The quiet, rural neighborhood took its name from the Coney Island Resort (see separate entry), which operated across the county road (4th Street/Prater Way) in the early 20th century.
From the beginning, the Gallettis invited the public to view manufacturing demonstrations at their “factory,” likely just a small kitchen. In 1926 they sold the Sugar Plum and moved the entire operation to the offsite location, naming it the Coney Island Tamale Factory. There, they sold tamales, both wholesale and retail, from a small service counter. In 1936, the family constructed a new brick building with an expanded lunch room and a kitchen equipped to handle four times their usual business. In addition to tamales, the menu featured raviolis, enchiladas, and chili con carne.
After returning from service in World War II, Ralph and Mary Galletti’s son, John, got a liquor license and added the existing bar, which opened on March 16, 1946. A new kitchen was added in the mid-1950s, around the time that the business stopped serving tamales and formally took on the name of the Coney Island Cocktail Bar & Restaurant.
Ralph Galletti died in 1965, and after that, John ran the place while his sister, Nettie, worked the front of the house, a role she continued into her eighties. The construction of Interstate 80 in the mid-1970s brought an off-ramp nearly to the building’s front door, and yet the Coney remains as popular as ever, with John’s children Greg and Lorri continuing the family tradition. The business was listed in the Nevada State Register of Historic Places in 2007.