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Pestalozzi Place is a diamond in the rough

Among the entrées, the red meat preparations stand out. Lamb medallions in a port cherry sauce (at $17, the most expensive item on the menu) struck a memorable note of savory sophistication, while a short rib osso buco, though it bore no resemblance to a true osso buco's bone-in veal shank, tasted like the best pot roast ever made, matched nicely by a mushroom polenta. Baked sole rolled in bread crumbs and topped with tomato-caper sauce was nicely done but lacked pizzazz. The two salmon entrées — one poached, one grilled — were overcooked nearly to the point of inedibility.

On two separate visits, flustered service provided unwanted interference. The first time around, a glass of wine ordered didn't come till we'd put down our silverware, while a side dish of Swiss chard never appeared at all. A second visit proved markedly rushed when entrées were brought to the table only five minutes after the appetizers touched down; our server appeared not to notice that we were still eating our starters.

You know just by looking at the wine list that Lawrence is serious about wine as well as food. It reflects an earnest effort to supply good value and encourage adventurousness. Prices in the teens and twenties predominate, with a few topping out in the thirties. Among the globe-trotting highlights: a viognier and a Vouvray, two tempranillos and an old-vine zinfandel. Intrepid after-dinner drinkers might want to try the zinfandel port or an ice wine from New Zealand.

No home like Place: David Lawrence  (left) and Steve Graef (right) cultivate a wonderfully cozy, DIY aesthetic.
No home like Place: David Lawrence (left) and Steve Graef (right) cultivate a wonderfully cozy, DIY aesthetic.

Details

Pestalozzi Place
2900 Virginia Avenue; 314-865-0775.
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 4-10 p.m. Sat.

Hot smoked salmon $5
Brochette $4
Salads $6.50 (small),
$7.50 (large)
Osso buco $9.70

Next time I'm out and about on South Grand, I plan to check in on Pestalozzi Place. I suspect I'll see evidence of progress; I know I'll find an absence of pretension. <

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