When it comes to Italian food in St. Louis, there's cheap and crappy and there's expensive and very good. But finding that middle ground? Not so easy. Mangia Italiano's quartet of owners, all of them armed with street-level restaurant experience, resurrected and updated their small space in 2002 without losing the original Bohemian charm. Artist Wayne St. Wayne's wall mural, a manic depiction of human history titled Mangia Evolutiano
, was preserved and the bathrooms are now fit for human use. The pasta is still made in-house and is as hearty and chewy as ever. The prices aren't quite as low as they used to be, but in return for the extra buckage you get consistent quality. Seafood risotto with shrimp and lobster for $13? Spinach manicotti for $8? Some of the best calamari fritti in town for only $4.95? For what you're served, that's cheap indeed. Wash it down with one of the 32 varieties of beers (seven on tap) or select from a modest but affordable wine selection. Want a real bargain? Avail yourself of the lunch pasta buffet: only $5.95. Did we mention the Dave Stone trio performs improv jazz every weekend? For free?