He Said | She Said: Caprese salads are late-summer classics

April: I say “ka-pray-say,” and Steve says “ka-prees.”
Steve: But ny-ther of us pronounces tomato “to-mah-to.”
A: The word is nee-ther.
S: Pardon me?
A: Nee-ther of us pronounces tomato “to-mah-to.” And for the record, I do say “to-mah-to” on some occasions.
S: What occasions – let’s just talk about the salads, shall we?

Steve’s Caprese salad profile: Punchy balsamic is a must. As far as the tomatoes go, I like them meaty, fleshy; it’s the redirected carnivore in me. Heirlooms are the most attractive – I like all the colors.

April’s Caprese salad profile: Yes to ripe tomatoes. Yes to ripe to-mah-tos. No, no, no to tough mozzarella, lackluster basil and punk-out vinaigrettes that never quite permeate the salad.

La Dolce Via Bakery and Café
4470 Arco Ave., St. Louis · 314.534.1699
Lunch: Tue. to Fri. – 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sat. – 1 to 3 p.m.; Dinner: Thu. to Sat. – 6 to 11 p.m.; Brunch: Sat. – 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Sun. – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

A: So the story goes that Steve was once terrified by a to-mah-to.
S: It’s true. At Indian Guide camp, I was faced with the horror of eating a sliced tomato for the first time.
A: Kids. But now it’s all better?
S: Much. The tomatoes in this Caprese have been properly ripened to a deep red – a process that’s as important as cooking when it comes to other dishes. Timing is key.
A: The lemony vinaigrette, a mixture of different vinegars and a vivid olive oil, is sloshy and delish.
S: And the presentation is impressive.
A: Very – a spray of alternating tomato and mozzarella slices topped with a flurry of bright basil that the chef grows right outside the kitchen.
S: Don’t forget the trickle of olives – and the purple and yellow cherry tomatoes on top. Beautiful.
A: Agreed. Bee-you-tee-ful.
S: That is no way to pronounce a word. Buy a dictionary.
A: I have one.

Pi
6144 Delmar Blvd., St Louis · 314.727.6633
Mon. to Sat. – 11 a.m. to midnight (Bar – until 1:30 a.m.), Sun. –
11 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Bar – until midnight)

A: Another garlandlike Caprese. I think we’ve discovered a trend.
S: More olives on the side as well. I think we’ve discovered two trends.
A: I give the vinaigrette a 3.14.
S: I give it a 10.
A: You would.
S: What’s that supposed to mean?
A: Oh, I’m just frustrated because I think a Caprese needs a convincing dressing; otherwise, it’s just mozzarella and tomatoes.
S: Well, this mozzarella and these Campari tomatoes are pretty good: soft, fresh, toothsome.
A: Hmm.
S: Oh, and what’s this on the bottom of the plate? Why, it’s oil and vinegar! Isn’t that what they call “salad dressing”?
A: Hmm.
S: Don’t be cross. Here, take some bread, and let’s mop the whole thing up.

Bar Italia Ristorante and Caffè
13 Maryland Plaza, St. Louis · 314.361.7010
Sun. to Thu. – 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Bar – until 1:30 a.m.), Fri. and Sat. – 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Bar – until 1:30 a.m.)

A: Wow, look at all this lettuce. Would you still call this a ka-pray-say?
S: Well, I’d call it a ka-prees, like the Chevy.
A: Even if the balsamic doesn’t really punch?
S: It punches enough.
A: Even if the mozzarella’s a little stiff?
S: I disagree.
A: Certainly you don’t think these tomatoes are meaty?
S: They’re meaty enough – especially considering the late arrival of the tomato season this year. Not to change the subject, but are these to-may-tos or to-mah-tos?
A: Well, those two slices are to-may-tos, and those two slices are to-mah-tos.
S: What about the other one?
A: It could go ee-ther way.
S: The word is eye-ther.
A: Anyway, what I want to know is when the yellow tomatoes I’ve eaten in years past will show up in this Caprese again. They’re the best.

I Fratellini
7624 Wydown Blvd., Clayton · 314.727.7901
Lunch: Mon. to Fri. – 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Dinner: Mon. to Thu. – 5:30 to 9 p.m., Fri. and Sat. – 5 to 10 p.m.

S: You say eye-tal-yan and I say eh-tal-yan.
A: Steve, I do not say eye-tal-yan. Ever. Please, this is a fancy place.
S: I can see that. Take a look at this Caprese!
A: A prime Italian specimen. Two thick slices of grilled ciabatta – one for you and one for me – covered by a decadent avalanche of cherry to-mah-tos. Abundant basil chiffonade adds copious spice. And the balsamic-forward vinaigrette is absolutely everywhere. I’m in heaven.
S: Me too. Torn instead of sliced, the mozzarella is like none we’ve seen elsewhere. Usually, boys like tearing things apart, cutting things. I honor mozzarella when it’s been ripped apart to form a rustic, sculpturesque mountain on my plate. I bring dignity to the death of a tomato –
A: Steve, the people at the next table are staring over at us in amazement – and not in a good way. Here, take your fork, and let’s polish the whole thing off.