STL Recommendations - Italian
My wife and I are quickly approaching our 1 year wedding anniversary. I have not kept up on the STL restaurant scene like I once did. I am looking for some ideas on a truly great Italian place. We honeymooned in Italy and would live to recapture just a bit of the fun we had.
I know STL area has a large selection of Italian joints, however I have to say I have grown a tired of the overly sauced, heavy, northern Italian fare that dominates the Hill.
It has been a number of years since I have been to Tony's and while I recall exceptional service (as it should be for the price) I don't really remember the food being out of this world. I have always been a fan of Trattoria Marcella, but I have to say on my last two visits I was rather disappointed - the quality just didn't seem to be what it once was.
So, with that, any STL Chowhounds out there have thoughts on a place that will help us capture at least a small sense of the quality ingredients we experienced in the osterias of Florence or the inventiveness of the trattorias in Venice?
Thanks in advance for any and all ideas!
Acero in Maplewood would be my recommendation. Light and delicate pastas without the gallons of red sauce (hope that they have the whole egg raviolo on the menu), and the portions don't slop over the sides of the plates.
My husband and I lrecently went there for our anniversary - we had a fantastic server who made us feel special and important, and the food made us both want to travel to Italy. I don't like to repeat restaurants for special events (there's such variety in St. Louis!), but we had such a great experience that we'll be going again for my birthday in two months.
You can get some really incredible Pastas at Stellina's. The downside I would say is there are only 4 of them made fresh daily. It is also a very casual restaurant.
But really excellent pasta dishes.
For example, here are their dishes this evening-
Creamy zucchini with blue cheese
Semolina tagliatelle with pan seared beef tips, roasted mushrooms and shallots in a garlic cream sauce
Roasted eggplant, spinach and roasted red pepper lasagna
Spinach ricotta agnolotti with tomatoes and pine nuts
Whole wheat tagliatelle with zucchini, red peppers and roasted garlic in an oil butter garlic sauce
Great stuff. Everything is fresh, hand made and organic.
We had a family dinner celebration at Trattoria Branica last month and had a great time. An excellent appetizer sampler with eggplant parm, calamari fritti, and toasted ravioli. A huge plate of two large pork chops that were tasty and garlicky (which I split) along with a good canneloni. Excellent service for a large group, and a very good value. But I don't think it is what you are looking for -- it is pretty much the heavily red-sauced Italian-American. For another upper-class classic Italian, you might try Kemoll's, though it has been years since I've been.
I think you might find what you are looking for at Cafe Napoli in Clayton. Nice room, good service, and from what I've had a bit of a lighter hand with the food.
Roberto's Trattoria in South County is excellent. Quiet, elegant without being stuffy, very good to great food. If you'd like something off the menu, ask -- there's a good chance they will make it, especially if you tell them in advance.
Sorry to say, but no, you're not going to get the quality of ingredients of Florence or the inventiveness orf the trattorias of Venice. What you can get is a lot of very good traditional Italian American cooking. Giovanni's or Lo Russa's on the hill, Cafe Napoli in Clayton, Kemoll's downtown, all have good food and good service. But if you're looking for inventive interesting food, look beyond designated Italian places to restaurants like Niche, the Crossing, an American Place, Sidney St. Cafe and more generalized Mediterannean influenced resto's. They are diong some wonderful inventive dishes with great ingredients. There's a lot of great things happening in STL, but they're not in the traditional(and somewhat moribund) Italian places.