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August 25, 2009 Slideshows

Inside Racanelli's Cucina in the Loop 

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Photographer Jennifer Silverberg takes us in Racanelli's Cucina in the Delmar Loop, to accompany this week's review by Ian Froeb.
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Racanelli’s Cucina is John Racanelli’s latest venture in the Racanelli chain. It is located at 6655 Delmar Boulevard in the Loop.
The grand entry of Racanelli’s Cucina in the former Market in the Loop. It took about six months for the renovations to be complete.
The main dining room of the restaurant -- quite a change from the first Racanelli’s, which opened in the Loop in 1994.
The first Racanelli’s, from 1994, was in the former Market in the Loop. At the front of the restaurant, through a different entrance, you can still order that slice to-go.
In the kitchen, chef Eric Below is “digging” for clams. The beginnings of the fantastically garlicky linguini with white clam sauce.
The clams are sautéed in olive oil, garlic, parsley and white wine. Not shy with the garlic, the clams smell terrific.
Chef Eric Below overseeing the kitchen happenings. While balancing the required multi-tasking of kitchen duties, he makes sure those clams are cooked perfectly.
Again, Eric Below is sautéing the clams. Next comes the linguini, cooked al denté.
The linguini with white clam sauce is shown here with the fettuccine Romano and Margherita Pizza. The fettuccini is made with grilled chicken, prosciutto, spinach and cream sauce. The pizza is Racanelli’s tribute to the original Italian pizza, made with Roma tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.
John Racanelli, owner of the Racanelli Empire, says one of the secrets to his pizza is working it on the board. The more you work it, the more air you get out of the dough, creating fewer air bubbles when cooking.
John, a native New Yorker (the Bronx specifically), has been in St. Louis for just over 20 years. He’s been making pizza since he was 12 years old in his parents’ pizzeria in the Bronx. He named his restaurant Cucina as a sort of homage to his mother, whose recipes have made their way into John’s kitchen, and many of which are used at the restaurant today.
John Racanelli, while busy running this restaurant and his six pizzerias, puts in about 30 hours weekly at this cucina. He says this is why everything is so consistent.
A pepperoni pizza has a rustic appeal. The dough is made from scratch at the restaurant.
The pepperoni pizza makes its way from the lower oven to the top oven for the final browning effect.
The pizza in the top oven. The final cooking step. yum.
John showing off exactly how the bottom of a perfectly cooked pizza should look like. When he cuts it, it will make a delicate and fabulous crunching sound.
Basil. John uses fresh ingredients. Here is no exception.
The Margherita pizza. It is a rustic pizza made with Roma tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.
At the front of the restaurant, through a separate entrance, is Racanelli’s Express, where you can still walk up to the counter and order a slice to go. Crystal Salone is shown here with a rather large pie. She guessed it was somewhere between 20 and 22 inches. Impressive.
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Racanelli’s Cucina is John Racanelli’s latest venture in the Racanelli chain. It is located at 6655 Delmar Boulevard in the Loop.

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