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.
At Old Vine Riverfront Bistro, proprietor Brian Manhardt draws on more than 25 years of experience to shape a bold bistro menu of fresh seafood, steaks, artisanal salads and stone hearth-fired pizzas. Inventive dishes such as their crab cigars—blue crab meat rolled inside of egg roll wrappers, fried crispy, and served with roasted red pepper aioli—can be paired with local beers, cocktails, and fine wines. Their curated wines and tobacco are sold at an onsite shop.
Situated in a distinctive two-story building that dates back to 1858, Old Vine Riverfront Bistro contrasts an energetic ambiance—punctuated by free live music almost every Saturday evening—with historical décor, such as a stone walled atrium and an excavated cistern that’s been transformed into the restaurant’s wine cellar. On warm weather days, consider dining al fresco on the patio.
At 3 Brothers Restaurant and Bar, visitors step into a world of bistro dining. The seasonal bill of fare, which includes local ingredients as often as possible, entices taste buds with a pear salad that mixes up pine nuts, gorgonzola, red-onion shavings, and meyer-lemon-thyme vinaigrette. Wild-mushroom risotto comes with grilled veggies and asiago, and the chicken breast is doused with a tarragon-and-blue-cheese sauce. Like casual Friday at Buckingham Palace, the space fuses a subtle elegance with a laid-back familiarity, with a split-level dining area of cool colors and dark hardwood and a cozy bar area with a flat-screen TV for watching games while sipping beers and cocktails.
A proud staple of Labadie for more than two decades, the Hawthorne Inn and its co-owners, Cathy Hancock, Chris Hancock, and Dick Hoey, pay homage to the old railroad town with the Labadie Locomotive pizza, flecked with pepperoni, sausage, meatballs, and pepperoncini. On a mural behind the bar, local artist Bryan Hayes celebrates the steam engines and nuclear-powered cabooses of years past, and hand-trimmed steaks and pretzel-encrusted trout are served in present-day portions. Wines travel from as far as Missouri, California, or overseas to fill the tavern's glasses, along with a large selection of domestic and imported beers.