Donatellis Bistro Great Food Great Ambience
My husband and I were married on Valentine's Day (11 years and going strong!) and so we're always looking for something a bit more special than the average Valentine's day fare to celebrate this milestone in our lives. This year, rather than go out of town or do the bed-and-breakfast route, we did a restaurant stay-cation. In the St. Louis area, there are hundreds of wonderful restaurants, especially local ones, that we never seem to have time to go to, so this year we decided to try several of the restaurants on our list. Donatelli's Bistro was one of them.
This restaurant is located in a strip mall near our home in Lake St. Louis (St. Charles County, MO, just across the Missouri River from St. Louis proper). I know that doesn't sound great, but I'd seen several good write ups and it also had a piano bar. My husband and I love to listen to good piano as we have a glass of wine and so we added Donatelli's to our list of places to check out. Knowing that the well-known restaurants are always booked earlier and limit the menu on holidays, I found Donatelli's add in our local paper refreshing. On Friday and Saturday nights, they were offering their full menu, not just the five or six Valentine's specials.
I hurried to my computer, pulled up their website, and checked out their menu. Good Italian cuisine, with the obligatory steaks as well, at fairly reasonable prices. And so, I called, talked with one of the hostesses, and booked reservations for Saturday night at 7:00. Their music began at 8:00 and I was hoping we could have a leisurely meal and enjoy the music as we savored dessert.
When we arrived, I discovered the restaurant was much larger than I imagined. Done in a Tuscan theme, the bar area was separated from the dining rooms by a wall, a small gas fireplace, and a large window through which you could watch the pianist while waiting for a table later in the evening. The entrance foyer was also deep enough because of this arrangement to easily hold several people waiting to be seated without feeling that you were trampling on someone's toes.
We were seated immediately. The restaurant was fairly full. Only a few tables with reserved signs on them were empty. Buss persons were busy clearing and resetting tables, including complete removal of the table cloths and replacement with clean linens. None of those paper covers or layed table cloths where the clean one is underneath the top one (okay as long as no one spills something). We were given a window seat, yet the room was warm enough that I did not become chilled sitting next to the window as the beginnings of the predicted snow storm began to swirl past us. The tables were nicely spaced, so you didn't feel you were on top of someone else or were eavesdropping on their conversations. Even with the full restaurant, the noise level was low enough that we could hear each other without shouting or having to sit practically nose to nose.
The specials were fairly standard and we chose to order from the regular menu. I love Italian and decided to try the cannelloni rossa. My husband is a seafood lover and ordered the linguini with seafood in a creamy garlic sauce. We decided to split a house salad, which was graciously served in two bowls, so we didn't have to accomplish the split (a small split charge was added to the bill). The dressing was light, not the heavy vinegar taste often found in Italian restaurants and not extremely sweet either. It caressed the lettuce instead of drowning it. The salad was simple: lettuce, pimento, provel and parmesan cheeses. And it was served with wonderful hot Italian bread, which the buss person checked periodically to see if we needed refills! It came with butter, soft and spreadable, not those little foil covered pats that are hard as bricks and tear the bread when you try to spread it. But a small bottle of olive oil was also placed on the table for those wishing to use that on their bread instead.
The entrees were served hot and fresh from the kitchen. One look and it was evident that the cannelloni were handmade. Thee large noodles stuffed with beef, topped with a smidgen of cream sauce and parmesan cheese and laying in a bed of red meat sauce. The noodle was tender as I bit into it and the stuffing was magnificent, its texture smooth but not pasty as if it had been pureed. I could still feel the texture of the beef as I ate it. The sauce was just the right balance of garlic and other spices, the tomatoes still evident in the sauce, cooked down but again not to the point of being obliterated from recognition.
As I savored my dish, my husband speared one of the shrimp and held it up for my inspection. It was a jumbo shrimp, not the little ones often used in tutte mare. He could actually cut each one into three decent bites. I sampled his creamy garlic sauce while he sampled a bite of my canneloni. His sauce was light and delicate, neither the overpowering garlic flavor often noted in such sauces or the pasty taste of some that have been too lightly seasoned. He was in seafood heaven.
To complete our meal, we shared the cheesecake, actually taking it home with us so didn't overstuff ourselves. And so, we didn't eat it until the next night. When I first saw it, I didn't think it was anything special, just your standard piece of cheese cake that is usually a bit heavy. But when I bit into it the next night, I knew I was wrong. It was light, with an airiness to it that I have not found in many restaurant cheese cakes. The texture was creamy, the graham cracker crust thick enough to hold the filling but not so thick that we ended up with bites of nothing but crust.
All in all, our experience was delightful. Good food, priced appropriately, in a wonderful atmosphere. Wait staff that are professional yet friendly, a varied menu that should appeal to most people, and more importantly, it's close to home. Well done, Donatelli's! If you're in the neighborhood, check it out. We're going there for lunch next. The sandwiches and salads sounded wonderful!