Review: Il Palato
first impression | Michael del Pietro’s Il Palato had some big shoes to fill when it opened in Clayton’s iconic Remy’s spot. But from what I’ve seen, the challenge has been met and then some. The interior makeover is clubby—sleek and upscale—with low lighting and well-spaced tables. The southern Italian menu is small, but everything we tasted was top-notch (and pricier than del Pietro’s other restaurants). Il Palato means ‘the palate,’ which is appropriate considering the dishes blend taste and texture for that ‘wow’ reaction. It’s a very adult place where you can have a relaxing evening of solidly good food. Plus, the servers are stellar.
» finocchio: $9; Grapefruit wedges, shaved fennel, bits of red onion and peppery arugula created a tangy, sweet salad.
» verdura: $8; A palate-tingling mix of greens was tossed with spring peas and diced, raw asparagus.
» carote: $8; This small plate elevated the carrot (and not even the pointy heirloom variety) into gourmet food. A single fat carrot, cut into thirds, actually provided a filling starter thanks to a dense vegetable demi-glace with intense flavors and a generous dose of ground pistachios—an all-around winner.
» tonno crudo: $12; This was the standout starter. Cubes of tuna were seasoned with tarragon, shallot and garlic, dressed with olive oil and egg yolk, and piled onto thinly sliced, grilled bread.
» chitarra: $26; You can’t go wrong with the housemade pastas, some of the freshest and silkiest I’ve tasted. These long, buttery strands sat in a delicate sauce of white wine and botarga, an intensely salted fish roe that screams umami. Traditionally used in this kind of cuisine (Sicilian/Sardinian), it tempts you to sop up every bit of sauce, even after the pasta is gone. The two head-on shrimp were stellar, plus there were a few small mussels and clams. Overall, it was a little light on the protein.
» capesante: $29; Four gigantic scallops were so well seared, they almost could pass for steak. Plus, they were delicious, seasoned with plenty of salt and sitting on a generous portion of creamy artichoke and leek risotto..
» branzino: $28; The whole fish, expertly deboned tableside, comes roasted, tender and moist with slight hints of the lemon, thyme and basil stuffed inside. It is served with hearty braised cannellini bean ragu..
wash it down
The bar makeover is appealing, with cushy high-top seating and a well-curated (and extensive) wine menu. Specialty house cocktails are planned, but for now, it’s the standard offerings. An Old Fashioned ($8) came stiff and syrupy, the way good bourbon mixed with muddled sugar and bitters should taste.
This place is a winner. The atmosphere is tony, the food is exciting and the service is impeccable. It’s the kind of spot where you can enjoy a relaxing and delicious meal in comfort.
222 S. Bemiston Ave. | 314.224.5331
the dish | Basso Nero: Pan-roasted black bass, celery root puree, Swiss chard, olives and cherry tomatoes