June 20, 2009: Dinner at Bartolino’s Osteria

John writing again:

This evening we did everything possible not to have to go outside, given the oppressive heat and humidity.  Fortunately, there was an Italian restaurant, Bartolino’s Osteria, inside the Drury Hotel itself.  (We crept past the door sensors carefully so as not to cause them to open and let in any hot air — what wusses we are!)

Not being hugely hungry, we decided to order a just few antipasti: bruschette, eggplant parmigiana, and grilled calamari, all some of our favorite stuff.  Out came three beautiful but gi-normous plates of food.

Bruschette: toasted focaccia slices, an odd choice for the purpose, with five excellent toppings: an olive tapenade, a spinach pesto, some intense garlic-infused olive oil, another olive oil infused with tomato / garlic / basic, plus a head of roasted garlic.

Eggplant parmigiana: absolutely delicious.  The eggplant was perfectly cooked, not breaded and not over-cheesed, and served with an exceptional fresh tomato sauce.

Calamari: these were breaded and roasted, along with red and and yellow peppers that received the same treatment, over a bed of very tasty crispy fried spinach.  The squid and the peppers were cooked very nicely, but we didn’t like the breading at all.  Maybe its job was to provide insulation against overcooking, but we had to scrape it off to get to the good stuff.  When we did (and gave the squid a squeeze of lemon, it was really tasty.  Then the owner came over.

Mary has written to a friend:  “In Grand Junction and again here tonight the chef and the owner came out to make sure we were pleased with our dinner.  Tonight we had some grilled calamari that had a bunch of breading on it and when we said we weren’t entirely happy they whisked it away and cooked it the way we said we liked it.  It’s like Californians are some strange, exotic creatures.  They talked to us at length about what we liked and what we thought would be better fixed some other way.”

After talking further to the owner, we learned that our hotel was at the base of The Hill, St. Louis’ Little Italy, right up there with New York’s Little Italy, San Francisco’s North Beach and Boston’s North End.  They take their food very seriously here and we’re glad we were able to sample some of it.

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