Monday, November 18, 2013

Terrazza Grill

249 Arnold Crossroads
Arnold, Mo
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Adam told us about  this place, he's in Arnold more than the rest of us. I don't like Arnold, the roads make no sense. Being just across the river from St. Louis County, Arnold is more like suburban city than Jefferson County. Sure it's got lots of restaurants, shopping,etc. It also has more people, a lot more people, and their cars.
But once in a while we tunnel our way out of the back woods, gird our loins and head into this town to take advantage of its wider diversity of offerings.

The Place:
A towering stone facade welcomes you. This is no hidey-hole bistro. It is a beautiful modern building, inside and out, but it could just as well be a southwestern steak house as an Italian joint.
The vaulting ceilings and concrete floors, the dark-stained heavy tables and trim and rafters are artfully crafted, heavy and substantial, like a ski lodge. A large fireplace sits in the middle, within a stone framed chimney. We were greeted warmly and immediately led to the back, near the drink station, across from the bar.
The modern bar sported a frosted glass panel that changed color like those old aluminum Christmas trees with the revolving color disk. Angel was fascinated and soothed by it, saying she couldn't take her eyes off of it. I told her that there seemed to be a color for every one of her moods, they just didn't change as fast. It was pretty though.
There were some TV's on over the bar, we could only see one, it was showing NASCAR. Hours and hours of rough, fast traffic in tight, but competitive formation, each jostling for a better position. The occasional fender bender, a fire or two, noisy, monotonous. I don't watch NASCAR, it's too much like my daily commute.
This is a neatly-folded, white cloth napkin kind of place. Tidy, neat, upscale compared to our usual  haunts.
Terrazza Grill is owned and operated by the same family that has had fine restaurants (Lombardo's) in St. Louis since 1934. As such, it's menu boasts 3rd generation recipes. That of course includes the ubiquitous St. Louis appetizer, fried ravioli.
The Food:
Fried Ravioli
I'd previewed the menu. I'd pretty much decided ahead of time what I wanted but Scott, our waiter, spoiled it for me. As he deftly explained the day's specials I heard the words 'lobster ravioli' buzz by. This flushed my brain of everything else. We'd already asked for our drinks, and were easily talked into the appetizer. I had tea, Angel asked for sweet tea, without ice, Adam a cola. Angel likes her tea without ice in colder weather.
The tea was excellent, at least a +4.5.
Scott came around again later and we placed our orders. Me: Lobster Ravioli and house salad, Angel, the Eggplant Parmesan and Adam manned up and ordered the Filet Mignon, 8 oz. with a baked potato. He'd wanted mashed potatoes, but apparently only the Sunday chef knew how to make those.
A basket of rolls were delivered and soon the appetizer was presented. Pretty, very pretty. A bit larger and thicker than store-bought ravioli. The frying gives it a toasty crunch. This was much thicker and meatier than the typical bar version of the stuff, TG is quite proud of them. We all thought they were pretty good. Not necessarily a lot better than other places, but they were certainly better than most. "Better than frozen" Angel said.
Lobster Ravioli
The salads came soon. I tore open a roll. It was lighter than it looked, definitely fresh, also much better than frozen. The salads were pretty, fresh greens of two or three types, red onion rings, and lots of white cheese. This was not common, deli counter cheese, this too was obviously a cut above. The dressing was conservatively applied and blended in with, rather than altered the taste of the fresh salad ingredients. Pretty good, definitely fresh and crisp, but not really Italian-y, if that is what they were going for.
Eggplant Parmesan 
It wasn't long before the entrees arrived. Clean, tidy plates, slightly garnished offerings. My five lobster raviolis were again large and plump, swimming in a creamy sauce. Angel's eggplant parm was served on a bed of angel-hair pasta and topped with cheese and the rich, bright tomato sauce we'd had with the appetizer. She offered a chunk, I accepted. "Doesn't even taste like a vegetable." She said of the eggplant. "Yes, yes it does." I responded, explaining that I could tell it wasn't meat or fish, it had the texture of squash.
 It did not have the taste I associate with such things, the eggplant itself didn't seem to have a distinct taste at all, but I could tell it was veg rather than meat. It wasn't bad at all, the
Filet Mignon
sauce and cheese blend was quite good. Then Adam offered me a pretty good chunk of his steak. It was plump, beautifully charred and the taste was spot-on. No heavy sauces needed, just a really good cut of quality beef, salted, peppered and grilled. TG had performed this plate perfectly. I carved into the ravioli, they were big enough that each needed to be cut into three to be eaten without looking porcine-like in habits. There was definitely lobster, seasoned simply, and the sauce did not overwhelm it. The pasta was thick, maybe a little doughy in spots, but not far from perfect. After the salad and the roll, I thought finishing the pasta would be a snap, It wasn't I only made it halfway through the fourth one when I had to call it quits. By this time Angel and Adam had already finished.
Summary:
The food was quite good, maybe even better. Angel appreciated that we were not served pounds and pounds of pasta. There was enough to act as a vessel for the sauce, and to fill us, but not enough that it would be wasted. The sauces themselves were excellent, the marinara sweet, fresh and not over-spiced, nothing was too garlic-y, too salty. The steak was perfect, the eggplant sliced pasta thin, the ravioli was plump and filled with fresh lobster. The service was top-notch, Scott didn't miss a beat. The folks refreshing the drinks remembered that Angel didn't want ice.
Angel also said that this was easily her second favorite Italian place. The biggest differences between number one, Trattoria Giuseppe in Imperial and Terrazza grill was the salad, Giuseppe serves up a more Mediterranean version with olives and artichoke hearts, and the ambiance. Giuseppe's is smaller, tighter, older, the floors slant a little, but it feels more like an Italian Bistro  than the new, modern, urban Terrazza Grill. Other than that though, she said they were pretty close.
The bill was an impressive eighty three dollars, about the same as we spend at Giuseppe's. The food matched the price though. This is not an every day dinner place for most of us, but it certainly is the kind of place if you want something special, something a cut or twelve above most eateries.

Terrazza Grill by Lombardos on Urbanspoon















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