Fortel's Pizza Den was founded more than 30 years ago by pizza enthusiast Bob Fortel, giving the restaurant plenty of time to develop a compelling formula for creating its hand-tossed pies. It starts with the crust: the dough is made fresh daily, and?since eating pizza, like playing Battleship against yourself, shouldn't involve too many tough decisions?it's formed into a single, medium-thin thickness. Chefs then slather this crispy foundation in one of seven sauces, including pesto, gravy, or Bob Fortel's original sweet-and-spicy tomato sauce. Topping choices number in the dozens, ranging from sweet chicken sausage and eggplant to corned beef and sauerkraut. While waiting for their pizza masterpieces to arrive, diners nibble on beer-battered mushrooms, toasted ravioli, and other appetizers.
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.
Grassi’s West administers mammoth lunches and capacious dinners from a menu teeming with Italian favorites. Cheesy heaps of chicken parmigiano ($8.95) accompany an entourage of crispy salad and buttery bread, and the Carla special boasts lean layers of trimmed roast beef, turkey, veal, or meatballs bookended by italian bread ($7.25). Sixteen-inch thin-crust pizzas ($13.75+) sport an undershirt of homemade sauce reinforced with rooftops of veggies, sausage, pepperoni, and strips of american and canadian bacon. Locals have gotten lost within the labyrinth of Grassi’s chef salad, drizzled delicately with homemade dressing ($5.05+), and diners who prefer big chomps to small talk can revel in the cafeteria-style serving, in which indecisive slowpokes won't stymie valuable chewing time. If there’s room for desert, a slice of cherry cheesecake ($3.75) can tickle tongues or provide creamy insulation for another mound of jaw-dropping sandwich extravagance.
At Pizza Express, cooks toss yeast-free dough into skinny discs, topping it with the St. Louis's signature provel cheese that melts into a delightfully molten and not-at-all-stringy thing of beauty inside the oven. Alongside their pizzas, they bread, fry, and toss wings in any one of a dozen sauces, ranging from classic buffalo to exotic habanero-mango BBQ, which is served in a grass skirt. Pizza Express also serves up salads, hot sandwiches, and a variety of desserts and hand-spun shakes.
Mazara's executive chef Todd Bale uses fresh ingredients to whip up a menu of authentic Italian tastes and feelings, such as abbondanza, mamma mia, and operatic heartbreak. In the process, he puts creative twists on traditional dishes throughout the dinner menu, including vitello alla Marsala (breaded veal cutlets with Marsala mushrooms over roasted-garlic and herb risotto, topped with truffle oil, $24), tutto mare (spaghettini pasta, scallops, shrimp, mussels, clams, and lump crab tossed in white wine, tomatoes, and crushed red pepper $25), and involtini spaghettini (eggplant involtini rolls served over spaghettini pasta with mixed, grilled vegetables and marinara, $18). In addition to à la carte entrees, Mazara offers a three-course dinner menu for $25 and features daily lunch and dinner specials to keep your mouth on the edge of its booster chin.
As devoted Catholics in the early '60s, Ed and Margie Imo would wait until after midnight every Friday night to pickup meat-topped pizzas from their favorite local St. Louis pizzerias. Tired of going out so late, they were inspired to make a change. In 1964, they opened their first Imo's Pizza to offer what was then an innovative concept—home delivery. As a nod to Ed's career cutting squares of linoleum, the duo's pizzas were always cut in squares and used as tiling to construct restaurant's floor. Today, the Imo's franchise encompasses more than 90 stores, and hasn't strayed from their square slices and pledge to never-frozen ingredients. The thin-crust pies are layered edge-to-edge with 100% provel cheese, homemade sauce, and more than 15 meat and veggie toppings.