Charlie Gitto Jr. may have expanded the Gitto family restaurant business into three locations, but it’s the original Italian eatery in The Hill neighborhood that remains the spicy heart and soul of the enterprise.
An authentic taste of old Italy is a staple ingredient of the Charlie Gitto legacy: pastas, breads and desserts that are made in-house and cooked to order; fresh ingredients that are either raised on the premises, brought in frequently or seasonal in the Midwest; and care and attention lavished on every dish.
“The biggest sellers are the housemade pastas—the cannelloni and tortellini are popular—but we feature beautiful dishes of veal,” says Charlie Gitto Jr., who is owner, operator and executive chef. “Veal Nunzio is big. It’s thin slices of veal with lemon sauce and topped with fresh crab.”
Toasted ravioli—a local innovation that’s practically a rite of passage for anyone crossing the shadow of the Gateway Arch—sells consistently and copiously, while tenderloin siciliano delights hearty eaters with beef in lemon-butter sauce and roasted mushrooms. But it’s the fish, delivered fresh four times each week, which Gitto most adores. It’s the backbone of the popular seafood pasta Suzanne (tagliatelle noodles with shrimp, clams, scallops, langostinos and mussels in spicy cream sauce), and the star of the buttery seafood risotto.
Like any chef fixated on freshness, Gitto changes menus periodically to capitalize on ingredients when they’re at their peak and cater to the cravings of the season. “Food in the winter is a little heavier with red wine and heartier soups, like the winter root vegetables we use in our risottos,” he says. “In summer, we keep things light with lighter soups, white wines.”
It’s also the time of year with Gitto’s decades of prowess with tomatoes shines through. “We’re known for tomato salads—some of the best in the city. We hand-pick them, or the customer picks them, and people can build their own tomato salads; they choose the ingredients, and we make it the way they want it.”
Though the menus are largely the same in all three locations, Gitto wanted each to be a unique reflection of the communities they serve. For instance, the Hollywood Casino restaurant boasts its own nightly happy hour food-and-drink specials, while Charlie Gitto’s from The Hill in Chesterfield serves up a selection of decadent sandwiches (grouper or strip steak, anyone?) during the lunch hour.
"We’ve got some very, very faithful customers, and sometimes they go to each restaurant. They all have their own personalities. At the casino, the style is more of a Tuscan décor—very upscale and casual and elegant. Chesterfield is a little more contemporary,” Gitto explains. “The Hill is my baby. What can I say? … It’s an old-world look, casual and priced right. It’s a place you could frequent.”
Chef Charlie Gitto Jr. will offer some of Charlie Gitto’s signature dishes at the Cooking School on Tuesday, May 9, 2017 at AUTCOhome. The cost is $35 per person. For reservations, call 636-230-9640, ext. 27, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Seating is limited.
The Cooking School Menu
Escarole and Bean Soup: This simple meal-starter gets its flavor from a high-quality vegetable broth and an array of Italian herbs and spices. “It’s a good pre-dinner soup to have with a nice crusty bread. It’s broth-y and it’s light.”
Wine pairing: Vina Koyle Carmenere
Classic Caesar Salad: Learn how to make the signature dressing that makes a fresh Caesar salad so craveable. Charlie starts with coddled eggs, anchovies, mustard, oil and vinegar and finishes with crisp homemade croutons.
Wine pairing: Count Karolyi Grüner Veltliner
Penne Borghese: Classic Pomodoro sauce, cognac, cream and béchamel combine to create the beautiful pink sauce that typifies this homemade pasta dish. It gets a salty, savory flavor from tasty prosciutto.
Wine pairing: Vino dei Fratelli Chianti
Charlie Gitto's, 314-772-8898