Mama Campisi's serves up enticing Italian eats for lunch and dinner, with a menu of enough authentic entrees and big bowls of noodles to fuel a triathlon, as well as the grueling and now-illegal sesquicentathlon. Before you attempt to ascend the "Hill" of Spaghetti ($9.75), though, hire some Sherpas and work your way up to it with an order of toasted ravioli ($7.25) or crab-stuffed mushrooms ($7.95) sprinkled with asiago cheese. The abundant entree selection serves up classic Italian favorites in a variety of meaty or seafoody varietals, such as the tender veal picatta ($16.95)—which lets you savor the sautéed slices in a lemon-butter-caper wine sauce—or grilled salmon drizzled with Mama's own Chianti-balsamic glaze ($17.25). Otherwise, commit to a torrid, short-term summer fling with Mama Campisi's signature dish: pollo spedini ($15.75), a breaded boneless chicken breast stuffed with prosciutto, provel, and veggies. Pizza pies ($8.95 and up) offer ease of dining for large groups, small children, and post-pubescent reptiles skilled in the martial arts.
According to many members of the close-knit Italian community on The Hill, it was at a restaurant called Oldani's in the early 1940s that a clumsy chef dropped a piece of pasta in frying oil and created the first toasted ravioli. That dish went on to become a Saint Louis specialty, and Oldani's went on to become Mama's on the Hill, rechristened by matron Mama Campisi, who took it over in 1982. When Mama's sons, John and Frank, had to give up the restaurant in 2005, Lance and Andrea Ervin jumped at the chance to take over the culinary landmark. They reopened it in 2006, retaining many of Mama's original recipes as well as the crisp signature pasta. Ivory and black stripes upholster padded chairs in the understated dining room, where a set of glowing candles are ensconced in a stone fireplace. Here, Mama's special recipes still serve as blueprints for many of the house sauces, including the marinara and parmesan cream. Salmon entrees are drizzled with her chianti-balsamic glaze, and deep-fried shrimp do cannonballs into her cocktail sauce.
Mama's famous fare also lures avid diners to enroll in culinary classes taught by kitchen staff. In the currently running sauces class, up to 20 students set pots a-simmer in groups of five, fueled by appetizers, snacks, and pep talks given by freshly cracked bottles of wine.
Paul McCartney. Luciano Pavarotti. Ronald Reagan. Besides being household names, these icons all have something else in common??they've all had the honor of dining on Chef Giovanni Gabriele's authentic, award-winning cuisine. While his passion for cooking was born in his native Sicily, it was Giovanni's other great love??his wife, Fina??that eventually led him to St. Louis, where he opened his restaurant in 1973. Just six years later, he found himself cooking for President Reagan at Reagan?s inaugural dinner, and the dish he made??a creamy bow-tie pasta topped with salmon and parmigiano??was renamed farfalline del Presidente Reagan in the commander in chief's honor. Today, it remains one of the most popular items on Giovanni's menu, alongside a host of other Italian pastas named for the celebrities who supped upon them.
But you don't have to be a celebrity or a politician to get the star treatment at Giovanni's. The restaurant has earned an AAA Four Diamond Award for 27 years running, and a 4-Star Mobil Travel Guide Award every year since 1983, in part due to the careful attention lavished upon each and every guest. Today, nearly 42 years after its inception, Giovanni's son Frank runs the kitchen, blending its iconic sauces and forming the housemade crepes, but Giovanni still commands the show, supervising in the kitchen, greeting patrons tableside, and mining the pepper and salt from nearby mountains himself.
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.
Even before he founded PowerFit Bootcamp, JR Spear always felt a calling to transform people into fitness machines. A fourth-degree black belt and studied martial artist, Spear spent years training future Marine Corps officers and Iraqi soldiers in self-defense and combat skills. Later, Spear taught his own MMA fitness and cardio-kickboxing classes, along with personal and group training sessions.
At PowerFit Bootcamp, he and his staff of fitness instructors encourage each student to persevere by leading motivational and high-energy classes. At 12 indoor and outdoor locations, students undergo full-body workouts designed to jettison fat and tone muscle. Trainers welcome students of all stripes, giving them a period of time to complete each move, rather than a number of repetitions, encouraging each student to do as much as he or she can without feeling uncomfortable, overexerting, or resorting to time travel. Along the way, coaches track progress and motivate students by noting benchmarks during physical fitness tests on the first Monday and Tuesday of each month.
The culinary masterminds at Joe Fassi Sausage and Sandwich Factory stuff their menu with homemade meatballs and sausages that caught the hungry editorial eye of Riverfront Times in 2010. Crafted with care and brimming with meat, more than 30 hot and cold sandwiches salute the Fassi forebears, who founded a grocery store in the storefront in 1926. Meatballs simmer in a tangy red sauce, and sausages speak of sweet and savory combos such as red wine with garlic and breakfast sherry with nutmeg. Instead of topping salads with handsome boutonnieres, guests can enhance their visual appeal with the café’s homemade Italian-style vinaigrette, available by the spoonful and by the bottle. The factory's friendly staffers also cater events with hearty boxed lunches and sandwiches that stretch up to 10 feet.