Today Gut Check relaunches one of our most favorite recurring columns for 2014: an accounting of the 100 dishes in St. Louis that you must eat right now. These are the best dishes at the newest restaurants and the signature dishes that are still blowing our socks off. They're the 100 dishes that define St. Louis dining in 2014.
It doesn't get much better than a big bowl of fresh pasta, and the Pastaria (7734 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton; 314-862-6603) team knows this -- simplicity is what makes the Clayton eatery so special. Gerard Craft and company certainly have the culinary prowess and creativity to come up with some over-the-top creations, but they show restraint at Pastaria, letting classic flavors shine in their freshest form.
The bucatini all'amatriciana is the perfect example of Pastaria at its best. The bucatini noodles (the shape is similar to thick, hollowed-out spaghetti noodles) have a subtle texture so that they pick up flecks of sauce like Velcro -- and of course, they are always cooked perfectly. The amatriciana sauce is simple: tomatoes, red onion and enough red chile to give it a subtle heat. The signature of this classic Roman dish is guanciale, the most glorious of pork products (for the uninitiated, it's the jowl). The guanciale is rich and fatty, infusing the sauce with its porky sweetness, and a dusting of Grana Padano finishes the dish. Pair this with a half liter of the house red, and you'll swear you're at a trattoria off the Piazza Navona.