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My travel last week included a stop in St. Louis for meetings which gave me the chance to spend an evening downtown to sample a few St. Louis bars.  A colleague from Boston was also in town and somehow got in his head that I owed him an expensive dinner for his assistance on a big project – so he picked out ‘a very nice restaurant downtown’ (his words).    Clearly, the honorable way out of buying someone an expensive dinner at a restaurant of their choosing is to fill them up with wine and cheese first which dulls their enthusiasm for going to a different restaurant. 


To that end, I suggested we stop by a wine bar a friend had recommended for a quick drink before heading to dinner.  Our first stop for the pre-dinner drink … 33 Wine Shop and Tasting Room located in the Lafayette Square area.  This place reminded me more of a ‘tucked in the corner’ bar in New York City or San Francisco.  A lot of character and a bar staff that really knows wine that can speak intelligently about all aspects of their wine list.


We choose a cheese and salami tray and asked the wine bar tender to pick one of his favorite wines for us.  He chose the Terredora DiPaolo 2007 Falanghina to pair with the cheese and salami platter. 


33-wineTerredora DiPaolo 2007 Falanghina, $27.49 (~ $14 in a retail store)

This worked surprisingly well with the cheese and salami.  Like many falanghinas, the nose of the Terredora DiPaolo very aromatic with pungent peach followed by lemon spritz, honeysuckle (much like a Virginia Viognier) and mineral notes.  Good acidity with mineral, honeysuckle and peach in the mouth – more peach on the finish.  Falanghina wines are crowd pleasers given their aromatic nose and their versatility to go well with a great number of foods.  (another less than stellar photo – my ‘friend’ fancies himself as a photographer and decided that he could do a better job than me – notice his thumb in the photo – brilliant).


During the course of our conversation with the staff at 33 Wine, I asked for restaurant recommendations.  They all unanimously recommended Ricardo’s Italian Café located on the corner of the same street.   They described Ricardo’s as locally owned, exceptional food and very reasonably priced.  Say again… exceptional food and very reasonably priced…  that’s all I needed to hear.   The wine and cheese tactic worked great because my colleague agreed to try Ricardo’s.


The decision to eat dinner at Ricardo’s turned out to be a great one.  Ricardo’s, owned by Mark and Michelle Adams, has been a staple of the Lafayette Square area for 18 years.  Much like 33 Wine, Ricardo’s is locally owned and operated and has ‘true’ character.  True to the locally operated billing, one of the owners, Michelle, stopped by our table several times for a chat and her son was in the kitchen cooking.  The service and food was indeed exceptional.  Since Michelle is a Certified Sommelier, we turned to her for our wine recommendation to pair with dinner (Lasagna and Veal Parmigiano).


negro-amaroFeudo di San Nicola 2006 Negro Amaro

From the Puglia region of Italy – $23/bottle – 100% negro amaro (means ‘bitter black’ in Italian).  Dark reddish purple in color.  Definite baked plum, spice and slight hints of black licorice and earth on the nose.  The tannins were softer than I expected – the wine had a great mouth feel with a lot of black licorice.


If you find yourself fin St. Louis, a stop by both 33 Wine and Ricardo’s would be well worth your time.