Who ever thought that a restaurant in downtown’s onetime Statler Hotel would work? That would be Larry Forgione, sometimes called the godfather of American cuisine—and so we got An American Place. The large, elegant dining room’s service was dignified but not stuffy, in line with the nationally renowned chef’s demanding standards. He was smart enough to know that an uppity approach wouldn’t fly in the Midwest.
It was lovely, to be sure, but oh, the food. A crawfish bisque with bits of tangerine peel and fresh tarragon sticks in my memory, as does the corn chowder with crab. Even when he had his restaurant in New York, Forgione served beef from a St. Louis–area purveyor. And even the simplest desserts were earth-shaking. His strawberry shortcake recipe, for instance, came from James Beard’s mother.
The house could handle about anything. One evening, on short notice, we brought in eight worldly, well-fed California winemakers, who waddled out raving about things they’d never tried in the Golden State.
Forgione’s son Marc, who now has his own restaurant in Manhattan, worked in the kitchen. So, too, did acclaimed chef Josh Galliano. An American Place closed in 2010, but I still remember when it was the place in St. Louis.