Friday, May 16, 2008

Locashopavore: Viviano's on the Hill

St. Louis has dozens, if not hundreds, of specialty food stores thanks to its diverse international population. I thought it would be fun to choose one store and improvise a recipe from its shelves (and my pantry) - going in without a preconceived notion of what to make for dinner that night, just playing with whatever they have that's fresh or interesting.

I'm going to call this my 'Locashopavore' experiment - when you can't get something locally produced, get its replacement from a local store - and I'm starting it off with Viviano & Sons, Inc., on the Hill.

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"The Hill" neighborhood in St. Louis is a haven for the serious gastro-shopper. It's always been (and continues to be) a predominantly Italian-American neighborhood, and as such the specialty stores and restaurants are famed for their pastas, meats, and breads. One of the most popular and best known shops is Viviano & Sons, Inc., more commonly known as just "Viviano's".

The store has a nice selection of all things Italian - sauces, pastas, deli meats, wine. It was early morning when I went in, and the store was relatively empty, so I asked for some assistance from the very helpful woman behind the counter. After explaining my quest, she gave me a quick tour of some of the highlights & recommendations. I chose the following:


To start I got a pot of water boiling for the tortellini, defrosted the frozen white sauce, and washed the arugula.

Then, I chopped a slab of pancetta into thick pieces and fried them in a tiny bit of olive oil. Once browned, I drained the pieces on a paper towel and poured off all but 1 Tsp of the drippings.

I added 2 handfuls of arugula to the sauce pan, covered, and removed from heat for 1 minute to wilt the arugula. I stirred the arugula into the drippings (yum!) and covered for another minute, until the arugula was soft but not limp.

I returned the sauce pan + arugula to the burner and stirred in the white sauce. While I got that simmering, I added the frozen spinach tortellini to the boiling water and cooked it for 7 minutes. I drained the tortellini and let it rest for a minute. I stirred the pasta into the sauce, then served in a big bowl with the locatelli, which is a nice salty cheese.

I must say that Viviano's cream sauce is heaven, and certainly kicks the garlic off any I've ever made. I am sure I will use it again, and will keep a couple of containers on hand in the freezer. All said, this was a really simple meal to pull off, and it tasted fantastic! You could omit the pancetta & arugula and make an even easier & faster dish...but why would you??!

Chris Freeland
cfreeland27 (at)


Lisa (Show Me Vegan) said...

Nice post! There are great food shops to be found in STL City.

Chris Freeland said...

Thanks, Lisa! Yes, we're very lucky to have so many specialty shops in STL, and I'm looking forward to covering more of them here. If you have any faves/suggestions, I'd love to hear them!