Destination: Olio (1634 Tower Grove Avenue; 314-932-1088)
Neighborhood: Botanical Heights
Cuisine: "Middle-terranean" (Middle East, southern Europe, northern Africa)
Overview: Olio means "oil" in Italian, and c'mon. Could there be a better name for a Mediterranean wine bar and eatery located inside a former gas station? The cozy space has room enough for just a dozen customers or two, some of whom may be grabbing a drink before going next door to Olio's big sister restaurant, Elaia, or enjoying the small plates Olio offers. And while both its physical footprint and menu may be itty bitty, Olio is big on vegetarian options, with dishes such as lentils and goat cheese, caponata (eggplant, raisins, capers and olives) and fava bean and sweet pea puree.
Veggie Highlights: Olio's marinated beets salad ($9) is a flavorful blend of beets and garnishes -- mint, chives, radishes -- on a bed of ricotta cheese. The sweetness of the beets couples nicely with the creamy ricotta.
Olio's roasted piquillo pepper & ricotta sandwich ($9) is a crowd favorite. Stacked between two pieces of sourdough bread are dazzlingly red piquillo peppers and (more!) ricotta cheese. Pair this sandwich with the restaurant's "King of Kings" hummus for a taste-bud explosion.
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.