Join intern Virginia on her journey to discover how different regions of the US use local cheeses to improve local cuisine. From Vermont cheddar to Wisconsin colby and on to California Monterey jack, she’ll hit the iconic cheese destinations of America and introduce you to regional delicacies and recipes along the way. If you missed it, don’t forget to read last week’s post on Southern Pimento Cheese Spread.
Few people outside of St. Louis may have heard of toasted ravioli, but for those who have, these fried pasta pillows are the only way to snack. Simply put, toasted ravioli are fried ravioli served as an appetizer with a side of marinara sauce. For those native to St. Louis, toasted ravioli is as unique as their St. Louis–style pizza. These crunchy little pockets of cheese are slowly making themselves know to other parts of the country and should be gobbled up whenever possible.
The origins of toasted ravioli are vague, because many people claim to have served the first toasted ravioli. The dish originated in the Hill neighborhood of St. Louis sometime in the 1930s and became a quick staple in a neighborhood that was full of delicious pasta dishes.
One strong claim to the recipe comes from Charlie Gitto’s, who has been serving the fried pillows the longest. “Supposedly what happened was the chef dropped a boiled ravioli in bread crumbs and took that ravioli instead of throwing it away [and] fried it,” said Charlie Gitto Jr., the current President and CEO of Charlie Gitto restaurants. “There’s a lot of variations, but the original one was here. That’s the one we do and we’re proud of it,” said Gitto.
Mama’s on The Hill also claim to be the first. Bob Tumminia, the manager of Mama’s on The Hill, explained, “Mickey Garagiola tells the story here. He was a waiter up the street and he would come down here and have a cocktail with his buddy Fritz, [who] was the chef, and he was making veal scallopini with red wine. Well, instead of using the red wine on the meal he’s drinking it, so he gets tanked right.” As the story goes, similar to Gitto’s story, a ravioli accidentally fell into the fryer and was plated.
Regardless of which restaurant first created the toasted ravioli, it has become one of the city’s signature dishes. Here are some of the best restaurants for toasted ravioli in St. Louis.
Image courtesy of Charlie Gitto’s
Charlie Gitto’s is widely accepted as the birthplace of toasted ravioli, and they do not disappoint. Their traditional ravioli is stuffed with meat, cheese and spinach, and fried to crispy perfection. A little sprinkle of parmesan makes this truly an “original.”
Kemoll’s Italian Restaurant
Image courtesy ofTomato Soup
Kemoll’s recipe for toasted ravioli has been passed down for several generations. To this day, 80-year-old Martella Grigsby comes in each day to make her perfected pasta pockets.
Image courtesy of Road Food
Lombard’s version is extra large and present shaped, making it perfect to gobble up quickly. The dough is thicker than most ravioli, making them chewier and heartier. Lombardo’s sets itself apart by grating Romano cheese over the pockets rather than the traditional Parmesan.
Mama’s on the Hill
Image courtesy of Mama’s on a Hill
Mama’s on the Hill’s version of toasted ravioli is extra crispy and spiced more than the other varieties.
Image courtesy of Food Spotting
Trattoria Marcella has plus-sized their ravioli and pushed them from an appetizer into a meal. Each pillow has a blend of beef, veal, pork, spinach, onions, and carrots. A serving comes with a super-thick and chunky marinara sauce and a light sprinkle of Parmesan.
You can make toasted ravioli at home if you are outside of St. Louis. The Pioneer Woman has a great recipe and shares step-by-step guides for the perfect pillows.
This week’s question: What makes the best filling for toasted ravioli? Post your answer in the comments section by Wednesday, November 12, 2014 for a chance to win a FREE issue of culture magazine! You must be located within the continental US to be eligible to win. Good luck!