In 1983, Bar Italia opened as a tiny café dishing up gelato and drinks just east of Euclid Avenue. Today, it's a multilevel Italian restaurant just west of Euclid Avenue. It hasn't moved very far, but now its chefs toss pasta with seafood, season and grill Black Angus steaks, and flame pork tenderloin with brandy before finishing it in a light cream sauce. They also whip up vegan and gluten-free plates, and they still serve housemade gelato created with all-natural ingredients.
Diners can order wine by the glass, bottle, or bathtub to enjoy in the dining room, by the bar, or outside on the sidewalk area, which is pet friendly. Inside the eatery’s entertainment venue, Luna Lounge, white leather couches bask in the glow of colored mood lighting and flickering candles. On Thursday nights, global tunes from the DJ pump through the sound system.
In 1927, thousands of feet above the Atlantic, Charles Lindbergh was shielded from the elements only by the Spirit of St. Louis' thin linen covering. His eyes, though, boasted much sturdier protection on that historic flight?a custom pair of goggles designed by brothers A.P. and August Erker. More than 80 years and four generations later, the Erker name still stands behind high-quality optics.
Jack Erker Jr., great-grandson of August, presides over the business's two present-day locations, which have also played their part in adorning famous eyes. During Jack's tenure, Will Smith, John Goodman, and Shaquille O'Neal have all stopped in to swap needlepoint tips and grab a pair of stylish frames, which are sourced from Italian and German design houses, as well as his own manufacturing division, Studio Optyx.
The Fountain On Locust has earned accolades such as St. Louis Magazine's award for Best Restaurant On a Budget in 2012 and an honorable mention as one of Sauce Magazine's favorite restaurants to impress out-of-towners. Described as "luscious" by Sauce Magazine reviewers, the café's ice-cream creations skew toward adults. They may be topped with hand-crafted sauces or blended into champagne floats and eclectic ice-cream martinis. On the menu, these sweets converge with a panoply of vintage cocktails and playful café dishes that include hot roast-beef melts and a turkey BLT "so good you might cry."
The retro cuisine meshes perfectly with the vintage-inspired decor, highlighted by walls of hand-painted midnight-blue murals. Black and white tile floors spread out from a wooden bar lit with art deco-style hanging lamps, much like the kind F. Scott Fitzgerald described in his unpublished novella about Gatsby's electrician. And yet the restaurant's eclectic design isn't limited to the dining space—The Fountain won Cintas' America's Best Restroom Award in 2010.
Cini, named for the Italian street food arancini, packs its menu with a variety of these traditional rice balls that are crispy on the outside and packed with fresh veggies and meat on the inside. Guests first pick their cini of choice as their appetizer, with options including the Original packed with sausage and peas, a Primavera cini with zucchini and squash, or the four-cheese rice ball. From there, customers can select a base for their main meal, choosing either a thin-crust wrap called a piadina, a bowl of angel-hair or penne pasta, or a salad bowl of mixed greens. The wrap, pasta, or salad is then topped with a grill item such as meatballs, salmon, or steak and then adorned with a choice of hot or cold sauces such as fresh basil pesto, pomodoro, or creamy parmesan. And for dessert, the meal comes full circle with the addition of a sweet cini stuffed with hazelnut chocolate and sweet arborio rice.
In the 1920s, Grace Viviano Piccione saw the first glimmers of Delmar Boulevard's impending heyday. At the time, it was a multicultural neighborhood, perfect for raising the four children she would have with husband and Italian immigrant Paul Piccione. Today, Delmar is part of the Loop?a thriving shopping district. But Delmar is still a perfect place for Piccione Pastry, the bakery founded by Grace's grandson Richard in her honor. Fittingly, its menu includes classic Italian cannolis, as well as a lighter version; pastries, tarts, and Italian tiramisu; and cookies, coffee, and espresso. The selection also includes gluten-free, vegan, and sugar-free alternatives for customers.
John Viviano Sr. knew an opportunity when he saw one. His humble factory income could barely support one person, let alone his growing family, so the young Italian immigrant was inspired to open his own business. What began as a bleach-selling outfit headquartered in his bathtub quickly expanded to include a small storefront populated with gourmet Italian foods. By 1949 John needed even more elbowroom, so he moved his enterprise to its current location on the Hill and began wearing shirts with giant sleeves.
Retro album covers and movie posters overlook shelf after shelf of specialty sauces, olive oils, and pastas. The aroma of fresh cheeses, deli meats, and prepared foods flits through the air, further adding to the store?s old-world feel. In addition to providing stellar ingredients to local customers and buyers throughout the country, the family also shares and sells some of their own favorite recipes, including Mama?s tomato sauces, italian meatballs, and fool-proof risotto.