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Critic's Notebook: Good Pie Pizzaiolo Ryan Skyles On Learning to Cook in Italy

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Head Pizzaiolo, Ryan Skyles, slicing the prosciutto. To the left, butcher and pasta maker, John Messbarger | Jennifer Silverberg

Ryan Skyles was living in Italy when he got the call from Mike Randolph about the Good Pie (6665 Delmar Boulevard, University City, 314-899-9221). "I was working in a hostel in Rome, near the train station, when Mike called. He said he was opening the Good Pie and asked if I wanted a job. At that point, I was homesick and ready to come back. OK, actually I was out of money."

The Good Pie pizzaiolo didn't set out to Italy with the intention of learning about pizza. During his year in Rome and Tuscany his experience of classic Italian pies came from eating them, giving him enough information to discern what makes them so special. "[In Italy] it's all about simplicity," Skyles explains. "American pizza gets heavy. It's all about three kinds of meat and extra cheese. Italian pizza, our pizza -- this sounds funny -- is healthy."

See Also: Good Pie or Great? A Neapolitan pizza fanatic finds out


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Critic's Notebook: Athlete Eats Owner Angelica Lusky On Eating Like a St. Louis Cardinal

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Athlete Eats owners Simon and Angelica Lusky. | Jennifer Silverberg

"They're really easy to work with," Angelica Lusky says of her St. Louis Cardinals clients. "Sure, the portions are bigger, but they like good food, just like everyone else."

Angelica and Simon Lusky have a special window into the lives of our beloved Redbirds. As proprietors of Athlete Eats (2837 Cherokee Street; 314-932-5566), the prepared-meal service that caters to several of the area's professional athletes, the Luskys know firsthand what it takes to eat like a St. Louis Cardinal.

"They eat clean [no processed or refined foods]," Angelica explains. "It's super low carb and high protein."

See Also: Athlete Eats: The Cardinals' nutritionist brings health food to Cherokee Street

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Critic's Notebook: How Small Batch Pairs Vegetables with Whiskey

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Dave Bailey's Small Batch | Jennifer Silverberg

According to Small Batch (3001 Locust Street; 314-380-2040) general manager Justin Austermann, the peanut gallery has been questioning its vegetarian concept even before the front doors opened. "People keep suggesting that we put meat on the menu, but Dave [Bailey] doesn't want to do that," Austermann explains. "He always had this place in mind as a vegetarian restaurant. Once he sets his mind to something, he doesn't really change it."

The idea for Small Batch, the midtown vegetarian restaurant and whiskey bar, has been incubating for quite some time. According to Austermann, Bailey had been planning the concept well before the whiskey trend hit. "Dave has been wanting to do a whiskey bar vegetarian restaurant for a long time, but he'd been waiting for the right opportunity. It finally came. It just so happened that it coincided with the rise in popularity of whiskey."

See Also: Small Batch's vegetarian and whiskey combo doesn't translate

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Critic's Notebook: WildSmoke Learned the Hard Way to Stick to Barbecue Basics

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WildSmoke owners Dee Dee and Andy Kohn | Jennifer Silverberg

Andy Kohn has learned a lot about the barbecue preferences of St. Louisans. In the two short months that WildSmoke (12316 Olive Boulevard, Creve Coeur; 314-548-2222) has been open, the restaurateur has already had to tweak the menu to satisfy the city's tastes. "We made 27 changes in the first week," Kohn says.

He originally envisioned his Creve Coeur smokehouse as offering creative twists on the classics. But he soon found out that the city is conservative about its barbecue. "People have a very particular impression of what barbecue is," Kohn explains. "If you don't serve exactly what they are used to and comfortable with, they let you know."

See Also: Stick to Your Ribs: WildSmoke succeeds at barbecue basics, but stumbles when it goes off-script

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Review Preview: WildSmoke

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WildSmoke's baby back ribs | Jennifer Silverberg

Ten years ago, I had a hard time finding good barbecue in St. Louis, save for my uncle's backyard pork steaks enjoyed over a game of washers. Now, it seems like a week doesn't pass without a new addition to the smokehouse scene.

This week, I visit WildSmoke (12316 Olive Boulevard, Creve Coeur; 314-548-2222) to see if the owners Andy and Dee Dee Kohn (and pitmaster Anthony Collida) have made their vision for legitimate barbecue west of Lindbergh Boulevard a reality. Here is a sneak preview of my thoughts -- the full review will be online tomorrow and in this week's issue.

See Also: First Look: WildSmoke Piles On Smoked Meats and Country Kitsch in Creve Coeur

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Critic's Notebook: Planter's House Owner Ted Kilgore on His Days as a Perfumer

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Planter's House co-owner Ted Kilgore | Jennifer Silverberg

There was a time when Ted Kilgore nearly ruined his sense of smell. "I used to work for an industrial perfume company," Kilgore says. "It was a small company, and I worked my way up to research and development. By the time I left, I had a heightened sense of smell -- a hyper-sensitivity. I could smell things 40 feet away."

The transition from the perfume industry to bartending was actually fairly easy for Kilgore. "There were these 55 gallon drums [at the perfume factory], and I had all of the formulas committed to memory. When I made the switch to bartending, I was still working with liquids and formulas, memorizing the recipes."

See also: Planter's House is built on a foundation of mixology magic


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Review Preview: Planter's House

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The duck burger at Planter's House | Jennifer Silverberg

Ted Kilgore, the godfather of St. Louis mixology, has been pushing us out of our vodka tonic comfort zones since the days of the now-closed Monarch in Maplewood. With Planter's House (1000 Mississippi Avenue; 314-696-6203), he finally has a place to call his own.

This week, I visit Planter's House to see if the food lives up to the hype of the bar program. Here is a sneak preview of my thoughts -- the full review will be online tomorrow and in this week's issue.

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Critic's Notebook: Nathalie Pettus Wants the Restaurant Experience from Ratatouille

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Nathalie Pettus, owner of Nathalie's and Overlook Farm. | Jennifer Silverberg

"You know that scene in Ratatouille, the one where they finally have their own restaurant and the critic is eating there? People are peering in the window from the outside, and the room looks so warm, inviting, convivial. There are flowers everywhere, and it just exudes warmth. That's what I am going for."

I expected to chat with Nathalie Pettus, owner of Overlook Farm and the three-month-old Nathalie's (4359 Lindell Boulevard; 314-533-1580) restaurant, about how she balances her time in the country and in the city. Instead, I was swept up by her childlike spirit as she took me on a tour of her fantasy world. It's one where people still dress for dinner, eating with fine silver off of china, and take the train for the weekend at a lovely country cottage.

See Also: A quick tour of the globe with Nathalie's Deadhead chef


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Review Preview: Nathalie's

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The front dining room at Nathalie's | Jennifer Silverberg

As I child, I loved the story of the Town Mouse and the Country Mouse and would often wonder which life I'd choose: that of the bustling cosmopolitan city or the tranquil countryside. Nathalie Pettus doesn't feel the need to make this choice. The Overlook Farm owner lives out both roles as the proprietor of the swanky Nathalie's (4356 Lindell Boulevard; 314-533-1580), her farm-to-table restaurant in the Central West End. Located in the stunning 19th century mansion that formerly housed both Savor and Salt, Nathalie's is her showroom for the bounty of her Clarksville, Missouri farm. And to think some settle for a booth at a farmers' market.

Here is a sneak preview of my thoughts -- the full review will be online tomorrow and in this week's issue.

See Also: UPDATED: Fire at Overlook Farm Burns Restaurant "To the Ground"

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Critic's Notebook: Inside Lassaad Jeliti's Beautiful Mind

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Spare No Rib owner Lassaad Jeliti | Jennifer Silverberg

Peek through the windows of Spare No Rib (2200 Gravois Avenue; 314-202-8244), and you might find owner Lassaad Jeliti editing a paper on non-Euclidean geometry. "I still have the intellectual curiosity," Jeliti says. "My friends send me their papers. It's a hobby -- an intellectual exercise."

For some, the idea of doing math for fun sounds crazy. Then again, a hybrid barbecue-joint-taqueria strikes some as odd. Obviously, Jeliti is not afraid of being branded as quirky.

See Also: Spare No Rib's Mexican and barbecue are an (unlikely) match made in heaven

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