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.
A'mis Italian Restaurant garners compliments from area natives and transplants for its kitchen's mastery of regional pizzas ranging from hand-tossed New York–style pies to Chicago–style pizzas baked in a deep pie dish. St. Louis pizzas sport a thin-crust base that's sprinkled with a blend of provel cheese and mozzarella. All pizza dough is baked fresh every day in a brick oven. Entrees also include steak and pasta dishes, as well as lighter dinner options, such as grilled chicken or poached cod, that give diners fewer calories and grant increased aptitude for speaking in fishtongue.
The pizza at Papa Murphy’s Take 'N' Bake Pizza is always cold. Not because it's old, but because it’s so fresh that it hasn’t been cooked yet. Assembled and customized before your eyes, the colorful, unbaked disk is then taken home and thrown into your own oven. The crust crisps to exactly your preference, whether a thin crust bubbling with chicken, bacon, and artichoke, or a Chicago–style stuffed with salami, pepperoni, sausage, and ground beef. Each pizza can also be customized from scratch, with ambitious eaters choosing from 8 meats, 4 cheeses, and 15 veggie toppings. A bevy of side plates complements any meal, with crisp salads, bake-your-own cookie dough, and dessert pizzas.
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.
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."
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.