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.
Destination: Cini (374 South Grand Boulevard; 314-531-4433 )
Cuisine: Fast-Casual Italian
See also: -Vegetarians Get the Royal Treatment at Three Kings Public House in the Delmar Loop -The Royale Serves Up Classics with a Vegetarian Twist -Sugo's Spaghetteria in Frontenac Serves Rustic, Hearty Vegetarian Italian Eats
Overview: Cini (pronounced chee-nee) is short for arancini, which are traditional Sicilian street snacks consisting of fried rice balls coated with breadcrumbs. It's a fast-casual Italian restaurant located near the Saint Louis University campus in Midtown, so it gets a lot of student traffic. The menu is set up similar to a Chipotle or Qdoba: you can choose either a piadina (Italian wrap), pasta bowl, salad bowl or you-pick-two. With affordable prices, Cini is every student's (and vegetarian's) dream.
Highlights: Arancini is not a delicacy seen often, but Cini does it well. The primavera cini ($2.45) consists of onion, squash, zucchini, carrot and broccoli mixed with pecorino, Parmesan, mozzarella and provolone cheeses. The batter is rolled into balls, and then breaded and fried. The restaurant has three cini flavors, one of which is the four cheese cini, another vegetarian option.
Cini also makes building a pasta bowl easy. Pick your pasta -- angel hair or penne -- then choose a grill item and sauce. The vegetarian pasta bowl will run you $6.95, and includes seasonal vegetables. This time of year, that means zucchini, squash, bell pepper, onion and mushroom all sauteed in olive oil, and topped with the spicy Diavolo sauce.
Cini's second location, Cini-Ladue (8831 Ladue Road, Ladue; 314-863-2464) opened on Tuesday, May 7, in the Colonial Marketplace on Ladue.