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STL downtown Charlie Gitto's, I don't get it

I normally post on the Southwest board, but a couple of (long) driving trips this summer have taken us to 30+ different states. DH and I were in St Louis recently and asked locals for a downtown dinner rec. To a person, Charlie Gitto's got high praise so who were we to quibble. Off we went hoping for a great Italian meal.

Blah.

I ordered gnocchi with cream and red sauce and was very disappointed with the lead-like texture of the gnocchi and Campbell's tomato soup-like sauce. DH ordered Chicken Marsala and neither of us could detect a hint of Marsala anywhere on the plate. The chicken was shoe-leather tough. He also asked for pasta to be served instead of potato and was told that "the chef would have a fit if anyone tried to change his menu". DH could eliminate the potato and order a side of plain pasta but that was the only way to get this combo. OK, that's what he did. The angel hair pasta was a wonder -- the ends of the strands were hard and the middle was mush.

I ordered a glass of Pinot Grigio to start and Pinot Noir with dinner. I got Pinot Grigio both times and when I pointed out that the Pinot Noir is a different wine and should be red I got a lot of attitude from the waiter about "... who knows with wines with the same name".

Maybe it was an off night or maybe we just didn't get it, but Charlie Gitto's downtown location was a $70 disappointment. If The Hill location is a knockout, we missed the boat because downtown was two thumbs down, way down.

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  1. In a town where Cunneto House of Pasta wins best Italian often, I think it's safe to say, that although St. Louis has a veritable potpourri of Italian offerings, to use the phrase sub-par might still be a little complementary to what most of them offer.

    1. Don't group all St. Louisans in this category. They're the ones who vote Pho Grand best Vietnamese restaurant year after year.

      6 Replies
      1. re: marymac

        What's the big deal about Pho Grand? For me it doesn't stand out as being any better than the others, yet it's voted best year after year. It probably has something to do it with it being many st.louisans first introduction to exotic foodstuffs.

        1. re: mister

          Never underestimate the power of tradition. OTOH, Pho Grand has good Vietnamese food at reasonable prices in a pleasant setting with ffriendly service. there's not a lot to complain about. I agree that it's not outstanding but I'm not sure where you'll find better vietnamese in STL. However, I can't imagine who would suggest that Charlie Gitto's is the best Italian food in town. Especially the downtown one. It's not much more than a glorified Spaghetti Factory. If you are looking for good italian, there are at least a half a dozen better places on the Hill for tradiditonal, and several places in the County that are better as well.Kemoll's downtown, Giovanni's on the Hill, LoRussa's, Cafe di Napoli are just some of the places that spring to mind.

          1. re: chazzerking

            I have been going to Pho Grand since college when they were in their old location. I really like their food and feel that the product is very consistant. Maybe I haven't had "real" vietnamese food, but I really, really like Pho Grand.

            1. re: kprange

              I made it to Pho Grand the first week that it opened. I was walking home from work when I noticed a new place with six tables. The two guys running the place were very recent immigrants and while unpolished, really busted their tails trying to satisfy us. And my tab the first time was $3.95. (And for the record, I had done dozens of Vietnamese restaurants throughout Canada.)

              After a couple of years reading negative posts on this board about Pho Grand, I went back to St. Louis and tried Pho Grand again. And they still serve very good Vietnamese food at a fraction of the places on Chicago's Argyle St.

              However, Pho Grand is unhip since the "unwashed masses" have discovered the place.

              1. re: kprange

                I just want to go on record that I have loved Pho Grand since my college days - when they were in their old location. It is one of my favorite restaurants. I also love Cunnetto's, it is far superior to Charlie Gitto's - downtown location and Zia's, which I compare to Pasta House.

            2. re: mister

              I had a conversation about this at Banh Mi So this afternoon actually. I was commenting that places like the King and I and Mai Lee and Pho Grand are the ones aren't that great, it's just that they have been there so long, that they were the first places many people in the area experienced Vietnamese and Thai.

              The only ethnic mainstay that I truly believe is about the best in the city is India Palace at the top of the HoJo. You'll get spotty service, but you'll get great food.

          2. I think Gitto's is one of the worst choices for italian food. Cunneto's is by far much better. Gitto's on the hill and downtown to me, are vastly over rated. I will never recommend that restaurant to anyone. There are so many in town that are much, much better.

            5 Replies
            1. re: kprange

              Amen, kprange! How do they survive and prosper? What is the mystique about Charlie Gitto's that engenders so much positive STL comment? I was very surprised at the low level of both food & service, yet the place was full with more people streaming through the door. Are they riding on their former rep? It can't be just the baseball tie, something is ???????
              Thoughts?

              1. re: Sherri

                I think reputation has a lot to do with it. One of my favorite restaurants is Cunetto's. They have a wonderful reputation around the city and while there are better restaurants out there, there aren't many that are as consistant as Cunetto's. Any time I go there, I know exactly what I am going to get and I know the type of service I will receive. The food is very good- all the time.

                I can't say the same for Gitto's. Their food was vastly over priced, the service wasnt' that great, and the quality of the products didn't match the price tag of the food. It seems to me that some restaurants rely more on their reputation and less on their product.

                1. re: kprange

                  Cunettos; big bowls of mushy noodles swimming in way too much sauce, salads of mostly iceberg, the lettuce wilted from being dressed to heavily, veal scallops in too heavy of a sauce-appears to be thickened with cornstarch, poorly trimmed steaks topped with raw mushrooms and the same starch thickened goo sauce. Cunettos is consistent in a bad way. And just because the place is popular doesn't mean it's good. The bar in stl is set pretty low when it comes to italian, mex, and chinese.

                  I did enjoy the place when I first moved here. I liked the variety of pastas, and the fried eggplant and calamari apps were superb. But each of my 3 past visits was worse than the prior, the food seemed to be slopped together, so I gave up on it.

                  1. re: mister

                    I like Larusso's on Watson leaps and bounds over Cunetto's. Good place to try toasted ravoli too.

                    1. re: ttuspence

                      I was at Viviano's the other day and the woman who checked me out told me that her pick for great Italian food was - youi guessed it, Cunetto's. I had to agree with her. I am sorry, I know lots of you disagree with me; however, it still stands as one of my tops.

            2. Roberto's in South County is one of my favorite Italian places in STL. I'm originally from Boston, and it's as good as many of the places in the North End.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Richard 16

                I take it the North Country Roberto's is affiliated in no way with the South Country restaurant of the same name as their (NC) pizza is about the only thing you'd want to eat.

                1. re: bobzemuda

                  I had never heard of the Florrisant one, so I looked it up on Sauce. The name is different -- Roberto's Italian Restaurant, as opposed to the S. County one, called Roberto's Trattoria. I'm guessing they're not related. Go ahead and read some reviews -- I' ve never seen a bad one for the Trattoria.

              2. Gitto's on the Hill is very good...the one downtown is not good.

                4 Replies
                1. re: highcard

                  Same owners? Same menu?
                  I'll tuck this info away for our next trip because I can promise we will *NEVER* go to Gitto's in downtown again. I've just re-read my review and am amazed at how even-handed and kind I was when I wrote it. Abysmal experience at Charlie Gitto's downtown.

                  1. re: Sherri

                    I'm not sure of the ownership, but I think it's the same owner.

                    The location on the Hill is much more upscale and it has a different menu.

                    The downtown location is a dump in comparison.

                    1. re: highcard

                      "The downtown location is a dump in comparison"

                      Charlie Gitto's downtown is a dump, period.
                      Thanks for the "heads up", highcard.

                  2. re: highcard

                    I just don't get it. I went to both Gitto's and didn't like either. I think if one is going to pay s100 for dinner, as my friend and I did on the hill, then there shouldn't be paper tablecloths and the service should be superior along with the food. Neither was true in this case. For the price, I will go somewhere else. It is not at all worth the money - either place.