I think I have only been to two “traditional Italian” restaurants in my life, where I either went “wow” or returned multiple times; one was in London, the other Hong Kong. I stopped in an Olive Garden thirty some years ago shortly after they started, haven’t been back. I imagine their food would be a lot like Rigazzi’s.
I shouldn’t have been surprised at my reaction to the restaurant, I lived in St. Louis for a year and have been back several times, and with the exception of one very memorable evening decades ago, I’ve never had a good time in St. Louis, no matter the reason for being there or the person I had in tow. I also can’t think of a time I’ve enjoyed a meal in any city where the locals insisted a joint was a “don’t miss.” A lot of time I believe those endorsements come from a reputation earned years ago, but get passed down due more to tradition, than anything else. Whatever.
Rigazzi’s is the oldest restaurant (60 some years) on “the Hill,” which is the “Italian neighborhood” of St. Louis.
It was a Wednesday night, and we were seated promptly. I had perused the menu online, in advance, so I had an idea of what I wanted. The problem wouldn’t be finding something I would enjoy, but narrowing down my choice, as the menu was long and seemingly held lots of promise.
When you’re seated, you’re presented with a half loaf of bread, a cracker basket, and butter packets. Drink orders are taken and rather promptly filled. Service is friendly.
I started with the antipasto plate, described as “for two,” with a combination of Italian meats, vegetables, olives, some oddly misplaced triangle wedges of American cheese slices, and a dollop of blue cheese. It was a lot of food, and a really great value for the price. I’d go with it again, and be even more enthusiastic if they offered a choice of platters, like all meat, or just meat and cheese, and so on.
I knew I wanted my plate to be loaded with meat for the entree, so I ordered meat filled ravioli, in meat sauce, with a meatball, and with a side of Italian sausage.
There is crumbled, unidentifiable meat in the sauce and the ravioli (pic below); the pasta was cooked far past the point of oblivion (which seems to be a common complaint in many online reviews), meaning attempting to pick it up with a fork made the pasta pillows disintegrate; it’s a dish you end up scooping instead of stabbing.
The sauce was thick with not much unique flavor. The meatball was in the “it’s OK” category, and the sausage was a finely ground, fairly unseasoned Italian – I prefer mine “hot” as they are labeled from manufacturers, which doesn’t usually refer to a ‘heat from seasonings’ designation, but usually from a dose of fennel and Italian herbs. I use a lot of fennel in my Italian dishes at home.
I didn’t get a pizza, which I had fully intended on trying.
Would I go again? Doubtful, but I think the food and service are just right for the palates and temperaments of most American diners. It’d also be a good place for groups, as I imagine one could “under-order” (say, 2 entrees for every three people) and leave happy.
The restaurant’s prices are fairly modest. They have that going for them.
On second thought, I might return for meals of bread, sauce, and sausage/meatballs, skipping the pasta. I’d be OK with that. But it wasn’t an experience like I had in London or Hong Kong!