In a city that boasts an Italian district brimming with toasted ravioli, red wine and tiramisu, Gut Check is no stranger to Italian food, both rustic and refined. And in our humble opinion, not all of the best Italian eats are found on the Hill; some can be found in St. Louis Hills, from the kitchen of Trattoria Marcella (3600 Watson Road; 314-352-7706).
Like everything else at Trattoria Marcella, the straw and hay pasta is beautifully presented, with thick ribbons of egg and spinach noodles topped with the restaurant's signature marinated tomatoes. The combination of mushrooms, prosciutto and peas is a likely trio in Italian cooking, but the straw and hay up the ante. Bright green sugar snap peas add bursts of sweetness to balance the salty, meaty flavor from a hefty portion of coppa ham strips. The coppa ham is slightly chewy and the crimini mushrooms add a smooth, tender texture to the dish.
Tying everything together is a silky, sinful mascarpone cheese sauce. Lighter than your typical cheese sauce and creamier than an alfredo, the mascarpone clings to each ingredient in the pasta. At $13.99, the straw and hay is the cheapest trip to Italy you can take. Savor a twirl of the velvety pasta, wash it down with a sip of rich red wine and close your eyes -- you could be in the south of Italy, not just South St. Louis.
Beginning last year, RFT restaurant critic Ian Froeb counted down -- in no particular order -- 100 of his favorite dishes in St. Louis. Now Gut Check has taken up where he left off. Check back frequently as we detail our 100 favorites, and don't hesitate to send us yours, too, either via the comments thread or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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