The Veggielante has had it up to here with people bitching that St. Louis restaurants are vegetarian unfriendly. Sure, we'd like to see more restaurants offering more meatless dishes, but there are excellent choices out there if you take the trouble to look for them. We're not here to proselytize about greening up your diet. Our only motive is to spread the word about places where you can order good grub that ain't got no meat. To enhance your reading experience, we've settled on a handful of criteria we'll use to suss out a restaurant's vegetarian friendliness.
Cuisine: "Italian that Represents All Regions"
Overview: I Fratellini, meaning "the little brothers" in Italian, is a well-kept secret in St. Louis; a charming little spot at the corner of Hanley Road and Wydown Boulevard. If you happen to stumble into the restaurant, you're in for a real treat. However, you might want to be in the mood to spend a bit more, and make a reservation in advance -- so perhaps you couldn't really "stumble in" -- but your taste buds will absolutely thank you.
I Fratellini's menu offers a good balance, with light appetizers and rich entrées. The restaurant has a surprising amount of meat-free appetizers -- more than half are vegetarian -- and a few vegetarian pasta entrées -- and more that are easily made so with few modifcations. There are no vegan options listed on the menu, but the restaurant is still vegan-friendly, and will happily cook vegan-friendly meals.
Highlights: I Fratellini's grilled bruschetta (pictured above), a customary Italian dish, combines fresh basil, mozzarella and peperonata atop a piece of grilled French bread. A go-to for vegetarians, the grilled bruschetta certainly satisfies. This appetizer, like most of the restaurant's appetizers, goes for $12.
If you aren't a Brussels sprouts lover, the shaved Brussels sprouts salad ($12) might change your mind. Made with radicchio (a leafy vegetable), roasted pistachios, pecorino (an Italian cheese) and tossed in a warm sherry-shallot vinaigrette, this salad is exquisite. The pairing of the ingredients might raise eyebrows a bit, but the elements work well together.
The Belgian endive salad ($12) also takes a creative spin on salad, offering much more than a bowl of greens. Fresh orange, Gorgonzola cheese and candied pecans are tossed in a bright orange vinaigrette, served scattered on two Belgian endives, a cream-colored, bitter leaf. The salad's taste has a few twists and turns, as sweet and savory mingle with the endive's bitter flavor.
Swimming in a brown butter and sage sauce, the "Raviolo E Uova" ($20), made with fresh ricotta and egg, is extremely rich, buttery and made in an interesting way. First, the chef makes a nest with the ricotta; then, an egg is cracked into the center of the ricotta. Then the creation is wrapped in pasta. I Fratellini sources its pasta locally, and makes all ravioli in-house.
I Fratellini owner Zoe Pidgeon also runs two other restaurants in the Clayton and University City areas, Bobo Noodle House and Bar Les Frères.