After walking through a tomato-red foyer ornamented with framed photos and restaurant reviews, diners at Roberto's Trattoria enter an elegant dining room segmented by columned archways and enclosed by gold-stippled walls. Owner Roberto Zanti chats up guests as he walks around the restaurant, checking the quality of his hearty pastas and herb-encrusted steaks. Guests can pair these Italian entrees with selections from an expansive wine list, which supplies more than 15 wines by the glass and more than 65 by the bottle. While noshing on a tasty bruschetta crostini, guests can treat themselves to a glass of sparkling wine or impress a date by pushing a spoon all the way inside a bottle of sparkling wine.
Pizza isn't the only attraction at America's Incredible Pizza Company—families are drawn to its go-kart track, laser tag, and glow-in-the-dark mini-golf course. But the entertainment center's expansive buffet is quite the draw in and of itself, featuring more than 100 items and centering on pizza, including original, thin, and deep-pan crust (gluten-free upon request) crowned with more than 30 types of toppings. Verdant greens and freshly made dressings await visitors at the popular salad bar, and the baked-potato station comes with every necessity for side-dish construction, from cheese to the bacon bits from which bacon is built. A variety of sauces enliven the buffet’s fettuccine and spaghetti noodles, and other homestyle include hot dogs and frito pie.
In the indoor adventure park, meanwhile, gamers zip around a track in two varieties of go-karts—the stock-car speed and the slower Busch speed—as announcers report each turn. Visitors also can instigate harmless car crashes in the bumper-car area or spend five frames toppling pins during mini bowling.
When founders J. Kim Tucci, Joseph A. Fresta, and John P. Ferrara first opened The Pasta House Co. in 1974, they wanted to elevate pasta to an art form. “Some artists sculpt, some paint, and some sketch,” they write on the restaurant’s website. “But, at The Pasta House Co., we create authentic Italian culinary delights.” A few of the locations even have giant, exhibition kitchens so you can watch as pizzas, pastas, and entrees come to life.
Naturally, The Pasta House Co.’s menu revolves around the Italian staple from which it gets its name. There are more than 25 varieties of pasta to choose from, including linguine with chicken livers and the signature lasagna, plus weekday specials such as stuffed manicotti. Meanwhile, the mangia bene menu—which translates to “eat well” in Italian—showcases the more wholesome side of Italian eating, with dishes low in fat and calories that won’t peer pressure you to break curfew.
Gianino's stretches its pizza crusts by hand, simmers its sauces from scratch, and serves them both in its warm, friendly dining room. Rev up your pasta palette with an appetizer of toasted cannelloni ($7.15), or jump straight to the main event with a traditional pasta dish like the fettuccine carbonara ($13.15), served with prosciutto, egg, and a cream-based sauce. Specialty pizzas ($12.10–$15.50) include the vegetarian-friendly eggplant with sliced tomato and provel cheese, while the Sonny Delight BBQ Chicken provides a tasteful update to an Italian classic, much like dressing Michelangelo’s David in jeggings. An array of meat and seafood-based entrees away to quell carnivorous cravings, and the organized menu comes complete with suggested wine parings for each course–saving the cabernet and the spaghetti con polpette ($12.20) from the perils of online dating. Reservations are recommended.
Strands of ivy dance across the walls, crisp linen-topped tables set the stage for Italian and Albanian meals, and an elegant wood bar presents various libations. In this romantically lit arena, chefs sprinkle walnuts on chicken and almonds on 10 ounces of grilled trout. They also bake lamb and douse it in red-wine sauce. The kitchen team prepares desserts such as baklava to give meals a happy ending, just like movies where the princess finds her prince and gets him to marry her without a prenuptial agreement.
Since 1981, the pizza specialists at Elicia's Pizza have zipped through St. Louis's tangled roads delivering piping-hot pies to households in 30 minutes or less. At the shop, marinara masters stretch house-made dough into the shape of a mad professor's monocle and lavish each thin-crust disk with fresh sauce and the house's three-cheese blend. Additionally, the pizzeria's menu celebrates casual eats, such as wings, baked pastas, sandwiches, and crisp salads.
Onesto is Italian for "honest," so it's no surprise the owners of Onesto Pizza & Trattoria strive for transparency when it comes to their food. They proudly showcase the list of more than 10 local farms from which they gather their menu's organic and seasonal fruit and antibiotic- and hormone-free meat. They even reveal the secrets behind their wild-mushroom- and Gulf-shrimp-topped pizzas by letting diners watch as each pie is hand-tossed. Pasta, from the housemade fettuccine to the macaroni and cheese served with lobster in a cast-iron skillet, joins elaborate seasonal entrees such as pan-seared wild striped bass, accompanied by a pumpernickel-crusted saffron risotto cake and sautéed spinach and apples in a lemongrass-butter broth. In addition to sourcing its ingredients locally, Onesto strives to reduce its carbon footprint by recycling, serving to-go orders in compostable containers, and asking diners to take off their carbon shoes at the door so as not to leave a footprint.
The gourmet ingredients and eco-friendly attitude seem to overshadow the restaurant's decor, which the Riverfront Times describes as "unassuming … with no obvious flash or flair." But subdued is sometimes best, as the paper named Onesto's "simple" patio as Best Outdoor Dining of 2010, hailing it as "an escape from the hustle and bustle of other St. Louis restaurant patios."