Yearning to Breathe Free

A note of thanks to some of the immigrants who have broadened St. Louisans' dining options

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Nezirevic:

Welcome to America! I hope you're settling in well in the Bevo neighborhood. The thousands of Bosnians who have emigrated there are really bringing a revitalized spirit to the area, and your Fadil's bakery and Stari Grad restaurant are providing both hearty meals and a place to gather.

I went to your restaurant a little while back with a friend who really appreciated the atmosphere because his own family had come over 15 or 20 years ago from Slovenia. I'm not an import -- it was my Polish grandfather who stowed away on a freighter to avoid being drafted into the Prussian army during World War I -- but I am of 100 percent Eastern European ancestry, and your big plates of grilled chicken and veal and cevapi sausages -- and the simple salads of shredded cabbage and carrots -- reminded me of the things my babka used to prepare when we visited her in New York. And, of course, that crusty, dense, hearty bread! (Pretty clever, too, to have menu prices like $6.42 and $8.43, which round up exactly to the next dollar when tax is added.)

You keep your place very nice, with the fresh carpeting and wallpaper. Did you know that the restaurant that was there before you was the only Spanish restaurant in St. Louis for the short time it lasted? I bet you'll be there for a while, though, between the built-in customer base of your fellow Bosnians and all the dining adventurers in town who are eager to try new things.

And be sure not to think that folks like that Yellow Cab driver who came in while we were there, delivering to the wrong address and then calling you "damn foreigners" because of his own mistake, are representative of either St. Louis or America. I mean, think about it: How smart is a cab driver who can't even figure out addresses?

Anyway, best of luck, and we're certainly proud to have you here. That "American dream" that you may have heard about really does come true quite often. I sincerely hope that your kids and grandkids benefit as much from your hard work as we did from the sacrifices of our forebears.

Your friend,

STARI GRAD, 4738 Gravois Ave., 314-353-6572. Open daily (except Tue.) at 10 a.m.

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