Best Italian Restaurant (Not Cheap)

I Fratellini Caffe & Rosticceria

If the regulars at I Fratellini could keep the place to themselves, they would. Perhaps they'd even employ a little subterfuge: "What? What Italian restaurant? That's, um, a tarantula store. Look out!" And we could hardly fault the devotees for their deception: The beautiful, postage stamp-size restaurant seats only 35, and the rustic Italian cuisine is so extraordinary that by the second mouthful you'll be planning a return visit. A meal at I Fratellini, the second restaurant venture of Zo Robinson (of the eponymous Zo Pan-Asian Café in the Central West End) and her executive chef, Ny Vongsaly, is one of the singular pleasures to be had on the St. Louis dining scene. The food is at once simple and revelatory: warm baguettes with pistachio-studded butter; a wilted-spinach salad with caramelized onion, crisp, smoky pancetta and sharp Gorgonzola; ricotta- and spinach-stuffed agnolotti (Vongsaly makes all of his pastas from scratch); perfect pan-seared salmon embellished only with cracked black pepper and sea salt. The service is impeccably gracious; the space -- with its cozy banquettes, tabletop roses and stunning Modernist chandeliers -- is beyond classy. And "not cheap" doesn't mean "the only meal you'll have this week": Most entrées cost less than $20, and the wine list is equally affordable and inspired.
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