Noto's new executive chef, Josh Poletti, has created several new dishes, including the citrus salad.
When Josh Poletti first walked into Noto Italian Restaurant (5105 Westwood Drive, St. Peters; 636-317-1143)
, he was just a customer, curious to find out why everyone was making such a fuss about the wildly popular eatery. Blown away by the place, he quickly became a regular and eventually found himself staying one night until 1 a.m., talking shop with the restaurant's co-owner, Wayne Sieve. That conversation turned into a job offer that now has him working as executive chef alongside Sieve and Sieve's wife, Kendele Noto Sieve, to create a new menu that firmly places Noto in the conversation as one of the top Italian restaurants in the St. Louis metropolitan area.
"I came here all the time and love this place," Poletti says. "It's small and quaint, and what drew me here was that I get to focus on quality and finishing touches that you don't get to do at larger restaurants. I get to make sure that every single bite is perfect."
Poletti, a veteran chef whose resume includes Niche, the Libertine, Louie, the Smokehouse Market and Prasino, joins the Noto team fifteen months into its run. As Sieve notes, it's a crucial point for the restaurant; having gained a robust following of both St. Peters locals and those from the St. Louis side of the river, he and Kendele are eager to build upon what their guests have come to love about the place. That means offering the authentic Italian cuisine and Neapolitan pizzas that guests have come to love, while pushing diners to try something a little different, including offerings on the completely revamped menu. He believes the trust he and Kendele have gained over the last year-plus will give people the confidence to try new things, even if that means leaving their comfort zones.
"People will still recognize things, but any changes we are doing are only for a better product and better quality," Sieve says. "Things are executed at a higher level but still familiar. I think there are only three things staying on the new menu. We're taking our number one pasta sellers and changing them — but change is good. I wouldn’t want to be doing the same menu and executing the same pastas day in and day out. That gets boring. To keep people intrigued and excited, change is needed. It allows experimentation and education and growing. I know some people will be upset, but the vast majority will be excited because it’s only going to be better."
Some of the new dishes Noto diners can expect include gnocchi with guanciale, white wine, tomato conservation, pesto and pecorino Romano cheese and malfada (a ribbon-shaped, wavy-edged pasta noodle) with smoked salsiccia ragu and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Poletti is also excited about doing composed salads, including a citrus salad with arugula, radicchio, blood orange, orange, grapefruit, pistachio, ricotta salata and honey vinaigrette, as well as house-made charcuterie, a craft he has honed over his many years in the kitchen.
Poletti and the Sieves are enthused about the opportunity to stop and rethink what they want Noto to be — something Sieve says happened as a result of the pandemic. As he explains, things were extremely busy pre-COVID, then came to a screeching halt, giving him and his wife a moment to take a breath and focus on what they wanted to become in terms of the big picture. Now, with Poletti on the team, they feel confident they are achieving that.
"This is our dream team," Sieve says. "For those who think it can't get any better, just try it."
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