Through an elegant menu and an extensive wine list, founders J. Kim Tucci and Joseph Fresta make it easy and delicious for Missouri locals to celebrate the regional traditions of Italy. With each week punctuated by a special Sunday-brunch menu, Tucci & Fresta’s regular offerings range from its trademark pork chops milanese to Italian-style grilled cheeses at lunch. Traditional drinks and desserts, including lemoncello and pistachio gelato, lend meals a sweet finish.:m]]
Beneath a bright orange awning at the canine-friendly Bici Cafe, friends can dine alfresco and enjoy the fresh air while a dog lounges at their feet, dreaming of growing opposable thumbs and finally eating salad gracefully. Inside, forks travel to mouths freighted with ravioli, portobello mushrooms, and mascarpone cream sauce, a dish that earned chef-owner Steve Werner a mention on stltoday.com.
Mazara's executive chef Todd Bale uses fresh ingredients and homemade pastas to whip up a menu of authentic Italian tastes. Unearth creative twists on traditional dishes throughout the dinner menu, such as the vitello alla marsala, breaded veal cutlets and marsala-marinated mushrooms laid to rest on a bed of roasted garlic and herb risotto and sprinkled with truffle oil ($26) or the tutto mare, an amalgamation of spaghettini pasta, scallops, shrimp, mussels, clams, lump crab, and white-wine sauce ($25). For high-sun dining, scope out the extensive lunch menu, which includes items such as a veal burger ($9) and Mazara PLT—an Italian take on the classic BLT—layered with house-made pancetta, avocado, arugula, tomato, and peppercorn mayonnaise ($7).
Though they all begin with similar hunks of dough, the pizzas at Manhattan Express rarely wind up resembling one another. To start, chefs prepare thin crusts, whole-wheat crusts, or New York-style crusts to serve as the foundation for any of their 9-, 12-, or 16-inch pies. On top of that, they pile your choice of 25 toppings, from jalapeno peppers and shrimp to low-fat mozzarella cut in the shape of mushrooms. Pizzeria staples such as sandwiches, salads, and pastas round out Manhattan Express' savories and dessert options include eight flavors of snow cones, such as cherry and orange.
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.
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.