Archestratus, the first food critic, praised Italian cuisine's "top-quality and seasonal" ingredients and "fair to middling" ability to tranquilize rampaging baboons. Today's Groupon similarly stuns, and rightfully so: for $15, you get $35 worth of pastas, steaks, and wines by the glass or bottle at Trattoria Branica, the Riverfront Times' pick for Best Italian Restaurant (Cheap) in 2006. This Groupon is valid at any of the Italian eatery's three locations in Frontenac, Kirkwood. This Groupon can also be used at the Branica Wine Bar, located in the Woodbine Center, as well as Trattoria Branica's Kirkwood location.
The Trattoria Branica menu specializes in traditional boot-shaped-country dishes (spaghettis, minestrones, monicabelluccis). Steamed mussels bobbing in a garlic white wine sauce ($8.50) provide a sensual start to any meal, while the homemade pastas will tempt even the most noodle-phobic—especially the farfalline primavera ($11.95) with fresh veggies, garlic, and marinara, or the fettucine genovesi ($11.95) with sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, and pine nuts in a rich cream sauce. Meat-eaters and eat-meaters will naturally gravitate toward the 12 oz. strip steak ($24.95); the saltimbocca with prosciutto, mozzarella, and sage ($18.95); or one of the trattoria's other hearty seafood, steak, and chicken-centric dishes.
Trattoria Branica and its two wine bars offer more than 300 wines by the bottle, by the glass, and in rare circumstances, by the Foam-Dome. With an extensive selection from all over the globe, even the eternally unpleased will find a suitable sipping sauce. Glasses start at $5.50 for a pinot grigio/Riesling or pinot noir/merlot blend and top out at $8 for a syrah blend. Call ahead to make your reservation, or you'll have to build an additional wing to the restaurant by hand before you will be served.
The Riverfront Times featured Trattoria Branica on multiple occasions, also voting it Best Italian Restaurant (Cheap) in 2006, while the St. Louis Post Dispatch and Ladue News laud the Kirkwood location. St. Louis Magazine reviewed the Frontenac locale:
- The interior is formal, Italianate with lush floral arrangements. Some tables are quite close together, but the space is well used and the ambience is both posh and romantic. This is the kind of place you’d take a first date you wanted to impress, or your parents for their anniversary, or a spouse to begin making amends for that “unfortunate but quite insignificant really and it’ll never happen again” indiscretion...Trattoria Branica is one of the best bargains in formal Italian dining in the region. – Dave Lowry, St. Louis Magazine
- In general, we found the new place very friendly, with consistent and well-presented food. – Joe Bonwich, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
- It's beyond us just how Sam Kacar (former manager at Dominic's Trattoria) crafted such an exceptional restaurant on his first try. But by golly, he's done it. Branica's four courses of bliss may prove to be the best Italian victuals in town. What's more, they're served in très-fancy environs but at mucho-cheapo prices, with only one entrée topping $20 and most everything else $15 and under. – Riverfront Times
- This restaurant clearly has all the ingredients for success. The food is good and plentiful, and the prices are remarkably low. – Ladue News
- I would like say that this was the best pasta I had in a long time. Scallops and shrimp with asparagus and tomatoes in brandy cream sauce. Patio with the lovely fountain and an exquisite service made this place our new favourite. – abc, Urbanspoon
Northern- and Southern-Italian cuisines collide on Trattoria Branica’s menu, which has won acclaim from local press for its culinary acuity and fiscal reticence. Italian cheeses, herbs, and homemade sauces accent tender nests of pasta, market-fresh seafood, and succulent cuts of beef, veal, and chicken. Inside, sleek black chairs clip crisp white tablecloths prepped to prop up more than 300 wines from around the globe. A Mediterranean mood slips over patrons on the expansive patio, where umbrellas guard against the sun and waters cascade at a nearby fountain. For private parties, a balcony surrounded by wrought-iron railings elevates the dining experience and provides a better launching pad to catapult leftovers home.