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Week of July 13, 2005

Body Language
"Bush league!" Good one! "Body Politics" was lazy, bush-league journalism at its best [June 29]. All style and no substance. How long were both of those stories combined? One thousand words? Maybe? And it made the cover and got almost two full pages inside? And does Missouri Senate Bill 280 really hold that much newsworthiness that it demands to be a cover story? These were skimpy front-of-the-book pieces at best, not full-page cover stories.

Is this what happens when the RFT becomes part of the New Times conglomerate? Is this the best independent journalism St. Louisans can expect? You can do better.
Patrick Hunt

Greek, Not Meek
Let's hear it for Rose: How many managers at the RFT have a dagger at the ready for Rose Martelli, for @#$@#'s sake [Letters, June 29]? Will you be publishing her home phone and address for restaurateurs or armchair food critics who need revenge? If you don't care for her as food critic at the paper, handle that battle internally. Continuing to print two-plus rebuttals to her reviews week after week is unprofessional. (As is crying to the editor because she didn't love your restaurant.)

Why must she be positive and/or not too critical of any meal she reviews? It's the restaurant business. There are always dissatisfied customers, and if your feelings are going to be hurt so easily you should do something else. There has never been a Martelli review to date that has been vindictive or malicious. Be thankful, because in a great deal of publications and food venues her reviews would be considered too gracious. Please stop undermining your writers (at least publicly) by publishing undue retorts to their articles.

Also, keep the ##$%$ letters from people who don't even live in this state out of our papers. You were never supposed to be a national publication. Let your owners make a paper for their neighborhoods.
Joe Wisniewski
St. Louis

Another take on Ari's: As someone who is always pining after Greek restaurants as good as those in Chicago or Detroit, I appreciated Rose Martelli's review, not least for its witty headline ["Grecian Formula," June 22].

I have a suggestion about Ari's, though. I've always ordered the items most typically Greek and have so far hardly been disappointed. It seems from Martelli's review that she ordered the more generic dishes. Has she tried the lamb shanks with Greek potatoes? The portions are huge -- enough for lunch the next day -- and the meat just falls off the bone. Best of all, though, are the potatoes; they're crusty pan-fried cubes redolent of spices, not at all the "home fries with some sliced black olives" that you ate. (There were no olives in the ones I enjoyed.) They beat the potatoes at Costa's in Chicago, hands down.

The Greek combination plate of dolmades, moussaka and pastitsio, which is not on the menu but always available, is fine, but the saganaki is below par, pretty tasteless. The galaktoboureko was light and refreshing, but I prefer the industrial-strength honey syrup variety. Finally, the tzatziki is the best I've had anywhere, based on homemade yogurt rather than sour cream and studded with large chunks of cucumber.

Part of the attraction is Ari himself. He greets his guests enthusiastically, explains in detail how his dishes are prepared, sits down to chat about his days as a pro soccer player and even introduces his wife when she takes a break from her duties in the kitchen. The atmosphere is relaxing, the décor quiet and unobtrusive and the price is more than right.

Your review convinces me that I've been wise to avoid the mundane menu items I could get at Crusoe's or Friday's. But I know which offerings at Ari's are really Greek, and I know that they're (mostly) good.

By the way, thanks to Martelli for her literary and often amusing writing. It's the best part of the paper.
Christine Harper
St. Louis

In Ari's corner: My second visit to Ari's was just as delightful as my first. Each time was with a different group of six and we were all impressed with the delicious food and excellent service. Ari Mehtas went out of his way to make each experience wonderful and checked every table to make sure his customers were happy.

I certainly disagree with your food critic's negative comments in general. I feel she was extremely cruel in making such a premature judgment toward a new restaurant where the owner is trying so hard to succeed. I will definitely visit Ari's again in the very near future.
Mary Ann Kilcullen
Des Peres

Misleading the blind: The only ones who look amateurish and foolish are Ari Mehtas and the staff at Ari's. In his June 29 letter, Mr. Mehtas has the nerve to talk about atmosphere. Being welcoming is the first part of your atmosphere. My spouse, who happens to be blind and has a Seeing Eye dog, and I walked into Ari's a couple of months ago. Mr. Mehtas immediately wanted to guide us to the outside seating. It was not particularly comfortable outside. When we indicated we wanted to go inside, he was concerned about the dog being in the restaurant.

Mr. Mehtas apparently never heard of the Americans With Disabilities Act. We as patrons had to explain the law to him. As a restaurant owner, it is his responsibility to not only know the law himself but also to train his staff to know the law.

I won't just pound on Mr. Mehtas. This also happened to us at Bar Italia on a recent weekend. Some restaurants seem to have forgotten that the first part of having a good restaurant is customer service and a welcoming attitude.
Terry B. Moses
St. Louis

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