True Italian

I Fratellini serves up authentic Italian cusine based on ingredients.

By Judith Evans
Photography by Colin Miller/Strauss Peyton


With seating for only 34 diners, I Fratellini is an oh-so-tiny slice of Italy in Clayton. “I try to make it as authentic as possible,” says owner Zoë Robinson. “It’s not an Italian-American restaurant. True Italian food is simple, and it’s based on ingredients.”

Although I Fratellini has been around for a dozen years, many St. Louisans are unaware that it exists. “People drive by here for years and don’t realize that we’re here,” Robinson says. “I think our regulars don’t share this with a lot of people.” Reservations are highly recommended. Otherwise, patrons can call half an hour before they arrive and ask to be put on the waiting list.

The atmosphere during dinner is romantic but lively, with low lights, candles and flowers on the tables. Like the menu, the wine list is Italian, and Robinson has been crafting aperitifs made with Italian spirits. She combines Cynar, an artichoke-based liqueur, with club soda and orange. “It’s just really herbal and bitter and divine,” she says. To make another favorite, she mixes Aperol (“a lot more approachable than Campari,” which it resembles) with club soda and prosecco. “That’s a great summer drink,” she says

I Fratellini, Italian for “the brothers,” is named for Robinson’s sons Spencer Robinson, 21, and Eli Robinson, 19. They also are the namesakes for the even tinier bar and restaurant across the street, Bar Les Frères, which offers French food and drink. In September, she plans to expand Bar Les Frères into an adjacent storefront, providing additional seating and space for private parties.

Chef Ny Vongsaly oversees the cooking at I Fratellini, Bar Les Frères and Robinson’s third restaurant, BoBo Noodle House, which features Pan-Asian fare in a quick-service atmosphere.