Underneath that cheese cap is a bevy of ingredients: baby shrimp, leeks, eggplant and red wine. Oh, and arborio rice, of course, though the dish is so goopy with cheese that you might question whether there really is any rice there. At any rate, like the braciola, the flavor was less than the sum of the parts, and lacked the elegance, not to mention texture, of a great risotto.

An appetizer order of two arancini suffered much the same problem: The fried rice balls were so larded with mozzarella and Boursin cheese that the rice seemed to vanish amid the goop. On the other hand, fried artichokes stuffed with goat cheese showed some restraint; the cheese added a tangy note to the artichokes' bite. The batter was unremarkable, and the artichokes were wrapped with flimsy slices of bacon that didn't add much to the overall dish. A third appetizer, fried calamari, distinguished itself in its preparation: The squid was cut into large, thick rings rather than the standard smaller pieces.

The wine list is perfunctory, with a few reasonably priced bottles as well as a few splurges among the more elegant Italian varietals. Desserts were especially disappointing. The cannoli had no flavor, and the tiramisu was little better than whipped cream dusted with cocoa powder.

Jennifer Silverberg

Location Info

Map

Bartolino's Osteria

2103 Sulphur Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63139

Category: Restaurant > Italian

Region: St. Louis - South City

Details

Bartolino's Osteria
Caesar salad...$7
Tortellacci agli champignon...$18
Pork chop...$21
Veal chop...$36
2103 Sulphur Avenue; 314-644-2266. Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 4-10 p.m. Sat., 4-9 p.m. Sun. (Bar open till midnight Mon.-Sat., till 11 p.m. Sun.)

In a way, those desserts were a fitting end to the meal. Like the caesar salad, what began with promise ended with, at best, an ordinary, satisfying dish. And while I walked into Bartolino's Osteria expecting a meal to live up to the surroundings, at the end I stepped back outside, unsurprised to find myself in a hotel parking lot.

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