The shape of apps to comeKathy: There’s no question that toasted ravioli holds this city in an iron grip as the go-to of Italian appetizers.
Russ: Oh, it’s way beyond that. I’m pretty sure I saw someone munching t-ravs at a Korean place last week.
K: It’s pretty well accepted that they’re a St. Louis invention, so the hometown affection is understandable. But if you walked into a restaurant in Sicily, you’d be out of luck. So we present an Old World substitute for toasted ravioli: arancini.
R: It’s starchy. It’s cheesy. It’s deep-fried. Folks, you’re gonna love this.
Kathy and Russ’ arancini profile: The concept scores high: a ball of risotto, stuffed with meat and veggies, then breaded, deep-fried and served with sauce.
Onesto Pizza & Trattoria
5401 Finkman St., St. Louis · 314.802.8883
Mon., Wed. and Thu. – 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fri. and Sat. – 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Sun. – 3 to 9 p.m.; closed Tue.
R: Onesto’s seemed like the definitive arancini, like what your mama would make if you grew up in Palermo. About as big as an orange. A zesty red sauce with just a little meat in it. A few peas stuffed inside in some token nod toward health.
K: The rice was rich and creamy, and the breading made a perfect golden shell. It reminded me of deep-fried macaroni and cheese, but not as heavy.
R: Believe me, if these arancini were bite-sized, there’s no doubt I could pop them down one after another.
K: So because only one comes in the order, shouldn’t it be arancina? Or arancino?
R: Why worry about it? Next time, we’ll just order two.
1933 Edwards St., St. Louis · 314.773.2223
Tue. to Thu. – 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m., Fri. – 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 11 p.m., Sat. – 5 to 11 p.m., Sun. – 4:30 to 8:30 p.m.
R: Lorenzo’s takes it a step beyond and covers the arancini with melted mozzarella.
K: As a cheese-lover, I have no problem with that. But as an arancini-lover, it’s kind of problematic. The cheese made the breading soggy.
R: It did make them trickier to cut into. Point in its favor: The meat inside was Italian sausage, not ground beef.
K: Yeah, but the risotto wasn’t very creamy, and parts even seemed a little undercooked. I’d like to see them get the essentials down before they wrapped them in cheese.
Vito’s Sicilian Pizzeria & Ristorante
3515 Lindell Blvd., St. Louis · 314-534-8486
Mon. and Tue. – 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Wed. and Thu. – 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Fri. – 11 a.m. to 3 a.m., Sat. – 5 p.m. to 3 a.m.
R: OK, if Onesto’s is home-style arancini, Vito’s is the version that should be required bar food in every joint in St. Louis.
K: These were ooey, gooey and so, so good.
R: Vito’s got it right and put the cheese on the inside. All of the melty dairy goodness, but the little golden shells stayed crisp, even under a splash of marinara sauce.
K: There were three arancini in an appetizer, and they didn’t seem that much smaller than the others we’ve had. But somehow they disappeared so much faster.
R: I think it was because we were sitting at the bar for a change. There were more distractions, so you didn’t notice that you were eating so quickly.
K: Oh, believe me, I was aware of every bite.
R: Yeah, me too. I could have eaten a couple more.
K: Fortunately there was a basket of fresh bread, too, to swab up the rest of the sauce.
R: Yeah, we cleaned that plate so thoroughly, it was as good as washed.
La Gra Italian Tapas
1227 Tamm Ave., St. Louis · 314.645.3972
Lunch: Tue. to Sun. – 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; dinner: Tue. to Sat. – 5 to 10 p.m. (bar − until 1:30 a.m.), Sun. – 5 to 10 p.m.
K: La Gra sure was fast to the table.
R: True, it seemed like almost no time at all passed between placing our order and getting our two arancini. But maybe that was a little bit of a problem.
K: These were clearly the smallest of all the ones we tried. It didn’t seem like they were more than five or six bites each.
R: It’s a tapas place; small portions is the point, right?
K: I guess, but I think I got spoiled from our other excursions. These lacked breading or crust in part because they came out covered in a creamy sauce. Ask for it on the side.
R: The menu said there would be prosciutto inside but I never found any. Some sautéed mushrooms and onions, yes, but no prosciutto.
K: I just think with a little more time, these could have been a little better. A little crisper. The flavor was good, they just lacked something to give them substance.
R: Something like love?
K: OK, sure. “Love.” And about 30 seconds more in the deep fryer.