Del Pietro's Ristorante, 5625 Hampton Avenue; 314-351-1700.


Del Pietro's Ristorante, 5625 Hampton Avenue; 314-351-1700.

A Beefeater on the rocks is staring at us from our table. The pair of pimento-stuffed green olives that sit atop the ice look like the eyes of an unblinking cross-eyed frog or a pair of askew breasts following a botched plastic surgery. (Feel free to insert your own Tara Reid joke here.) We quietly, icily, return the stare to our friend's drink, but eventually we have to look away. It's just too weird.

Del Pietro's on Hampton is oddly quiet. Absent are clanging dishes, a rowdy bar crowd, blaring music. Catie, our bartender, tells us that they were busy earlier, but the signs of this are few. Stylish glasses complement her honest face and she has a nice smile, so we believe her. But it's hard. There's just one other couple in the bar area, and they are talking to each other, heads close, barely creating a noise above a whisper. This causes us to drop our voices, too, and we feel as though we're being too loud even as we scratch out notes on our pad of paper.

We softly ask for a cocktail menu, and Catie tells us they don't have one. Huh. But perhaps when a restaurant's been around for three-plus decades, they're allowed to assume the least you can do is know what you want to drink. So we silently consider the rows of booze behind the bar, and she says that if we pick out a bottle, she can build a drink around it. We like the sound of that — she's like a personal shopper or an improv comedian who can create a whole skit based on the word "smock." We opt for Absolut Pears, and she gets to work: she adds a bit of pineapple, cranberry and raspberry juices to the Absolut, gives it a couple shakes and pours out the light-salmon-colored liquid into a martini glass. A cherry hangs mid-drink.

There aren't any sharp edges to the martini glass. They're round, as if it were a part of a 99-piece children's safety kitchen set and holds a kiddie cocktail within. This just adds to the overall softness to the room. The elevator music that's playing is dull, but seems appropriate. Mirrors are everywhere, and white icicle lights hang around the bar. And even though not all of them light up, it somehow comes off as quaint, not tacky.

It's been God knows how long since we've eaten a pear and we'd forgotten how complex pears' tastes are: they're simultaneously soft and gritty, the brown spots and freckles each seem to have their own distinct flavor, and afterward, both your fingers and teeth feel sticky. The drink's smell is overwhelmingly pear, but its taste is curiously closer to a watermelon Jolly Rancher. Pearberry, Catie calls it. She says she was the one who lobbied to get the bottle of Absolut Pears, and she invented the drink awhile back. It's rather good, though, and we're secretly glad we didn't have order the Pearberry by name. We'd feel a bit embarrassed to call it that out loud, but more important, our words would only pollute the air's near silence.

Got a drink suggestion? E-mail [email protected]

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