Best Italian Restaurant (Not Cheap) St. Louis 2012 - Mad Tomato
It has been quite the culinary trip for chef Vito Racanelli Jr. — from the lovably rough-and-tumble Big V's Burger Joint (now closed) to the casual, neighborhood-focused Onesto Pizza & Trattoria (still open, but Racanelli is no longer involved) to his current venue, Mad Tomato. Though the restaurant's volume can match its owner's gregarious personality, this is a decidedly more upscale venture where Racanelli can really show off his chops, from an elegant saffron linguini in a white-wine cream sauce with Gulf shrimp to a tremendous whole rack of lamb. The budget-conscious need not be overly wary, either: Most entrées are priced under $20, and some of the standout dishes cost even less, such as the excellent Neapolitan style pizzas (the margherita is a downright reasonable $11). The "Hunter's Egg" appetizer, featuring an egg poached in tomato broth over polenta, packs $30 worth of flavor into its $9 price tag. The risk, of course, is that everything here is so flavorful that you'll build up quite the final bill ordering as much of it as you can.