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Macceroni alla Mugnaia: a hand-pulled single noodle, chili flakes, and a trio of local peppers (banana, arbol, and Cubanelle). An outstanding pasta dish.
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Incredibly tender, sous-vide cooked hanger steak with sweet corn fregola could easily pass for beef tenderloin. A steal at $16.
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Warm woods and a slatted ceiling demarcate Randolfi's bar area, where there's seating for 10 at the bar and 10 at tables in the bar.
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One-upping the casual dining room, two sophisticated sconces flank the bar area.
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Authentic Neopolitan pizzas cooked here.
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Simple is good: Randolfi's Margherita pizza.
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The only vestiges of the original Good Pie at 3137 Olive in Midtown: the two classic bicycles that hung from its ceiling.
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The Arcobaleno pasta extruder. Some call the small but mighty machine "the Rolls Royce of pasta makers."
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A close-up of the Antica pizza. Reconstituted porcini mushrooms, buffalo mozzarella, and house made prosciutto provide bursts of flavor.
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Randolfi's inaugural food menu.
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Randolfi's inaugural beer and wine menu.
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Randolfi's inaugural cocktail menu.
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Randolfi's inaugural Italian spirits menu.
Restaurateur Mike Randolph's newest restaurant, Randolfi's Italian Kitchen, opens this evening in the space formerly occupied by The Good Pie, in the Delmar Loop. Pat Eby and SLM dining editor George Mahe were recently invited for a private tasting. Below are their impressions.
1. THE ATMOSPHERE
Pat: The magic at Randolfi’s begins when your heels click on the dining room's black-and-white tile floor. The family photos; the red-checkered tablecloths; the comforting umber walls; and the patrician curtains striped red, cream, and walnut speak of family, cozy dinners, and celebratory gatherings. For me, the design evoked Grandma’s house, the first grown-up restaurant I visited at 12, and the cozy place I stopped in Little Italy on my first business trip to New York—ageless and timeless.
George: Part of the appeal for me is that Randolfi’s exposes a new generation to the type of old-school Italian décor that Pat described, the kind seen in restaurants that their parents and grandparents used to frequent. All that’s missing are Chianti bottles on the tables and candles dripping red wax onto fiasco baskets.
2. THE PASTA
Pat said: Fresh pasta rules at Randolfi’s, from the tiniest pearls of fregula roasted in the wood-fired oven to the long strands of hand-rolled maccheroni. The gnocchi uses just russet potatoes, salt, and tipo 00 flour; it's a faultless accompaniment to a dish of rabbit loin, leg, and belly with fresh mint, microgreens, and peas. The spaghetti alla chitarra (pictured at right), combined with a ragu of Salume Beddu salami and a seasonal corn soup, delivers a hint of sweet with the savory. I really like that Randolph cooks with fresh and local ingredients, so new pasta favorites will appear as the seasons unfold.
George said: And I really like the price point and portion sizes (the latter similar to the primo course in Italy). Randolph's goal at both Publico and Randolfi’s is to narrow the gap between casual and fine dining; in my opinion, he’s succeeded, creating week-night restaurants that work just as well on date nights.
3. THE PIZZA
Pat said: Randolph had me at the classic margherita pizza that he pulled out of the wood-fired oven. He offers a no-cheese marinara style, as well as pizza bianca—all in the Neopolitan style. But the adventure took flight with Randolfi’s signature pizza, the Atina (pictured at right). Randolph’s family emigrated from Atina in southern Italy. “This pizza is a bit more composed than the others,” Randolph says. The toppings include reconstituted dried porcini mushrooms, Grana Padano cheese, a superior olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. After baking the pie, Randolph adds thin slices of prosciutto. I loved the variety of bubbles charred at the crust's edges, the cornicione.
George said: The Good Pie was home to the most authentic interpretation of Neapolitan pizza in St. Louis. Randolph closed The Good Pie in late June to make way for Randolfi’s, where that style of pizza is (thankfully) still represented. I'm happy he didn’t abandon the concept entirely, as the three pizzas that we sampled were as good or better than those from The Good Pie.
4. QUALITY INGREDIENTS
Pat said: Randolfi’s approach to ingredients warms my heart. Chefs snip fresh herb from a wall near the kitchen (pictured at right), not because it’s trendy, but because it’s right for Randolfi’s style of cooking. They use San Marzano tomatoes canned at the height of freshness. Buffalo mozzarella became the cheese of choice for its performance, not for its name and reputation. Randolfi’s seasonal, local approach to each element shows in every bright bite.
George said: The food quality at Randolph’s restaurants has always been first-rate. “Bright bite” is an accurate description because every dish pops. Flavors here are deliberate and appropriately intense. Diners who experienced Randolph’s cooking at Little Country Gentleman, MEDIAnoche, and Público understand this. Diners at Randolfi’s soon will.
5. THE BAR
Pat said: At Randolfi’s, the party doesn’t stop with the food. As intimate as the dining room is, the wrap-around bar, with its warm woods and slatted low ceiling (pictured at right), exudes sophistication and romance. Dinner seating in the bar is first-come, first-served. If you haven’t tried dining at the bar, give it a whirl. It’s fun, especially with bartender Jeffrey Moll, Jr. on hand. We share a fondness for vintage barware and a passion for recording things in notebooks. Don't miss the five Italian-inspired cocktails that he developed for Randolfi’s, which incorporate Italian bitters, liqueurs, aperitifs, and spirits in unexpected ways.
George said: Every July, SLM names five individuals to its A-List Dream Team, restaurant staffers who are performing at the top of their game. Moll is the top mixologist for 2015. Enough said.
6. THE DESSERT
Pat said: I would be remiss not to mention the cheeky chocolate salami dessert (pictured at right): hazelnut cookie dough, chocolate ganache, tart cherry concentrate, mascarpone, and the tiniest basil leaves. Paradiso.
George said: Amen. This dessert is a small, well-crafted taste of sweet deliciousness that leaves you longing for more—the perfect lure for a return visit.
Randolfi’s Italian Kitchen
Opening August 25
Tue - Sun: 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Website: randolfis.com (at press time, website was not yet live)
Facebook: Randolfi's Italian Kitchen