It's no secret that Babbo's Spaghetteria in Chesterfield is a sibling of Sugo's Spaghetteria in Frontenac. But the distance between the restaurants is considerably more than the 11 or so miles door to door. The crowd is different, even though the menu is similar, and the vibe is different, despite many similarities in the décor. A storefront with large windows, the tables and chairs are simple wood, the ceiling is high, and the walls painted the color of terra cotta. With the place nearly full the night of our visit, we were surprised that it wasn't deafeningly noisy. Not subdued, to be sure, but we could comfortably hear one another across the table.
Along one wall is a large and quite legible chalkboard menu, but fear not, there also are printed ones, and a wine list. The right-hand columns are a pleasant surprise. Babbo's prices are extremely reasonable, with entrees beginning at $9. And most of the portions are of sufficient size to satisfy St. Louis expectations about how much should be on a plate. (Please note we did not say “how much one should eat.”)
The Caesar salad serves as a perfect example and also could easily have served as an entire lunch entree. Cold (one of us thought it a little too much so), crunchy, a tasty dressing tangy with shards of cheese and probably some anchovy paste, its only major shortcoming was that the croutons were rock-hard stale. The menu specifies Neapolitan pizzas; the one called "Babbo's" carried sausage, caramelized onions and a dribble of balsamic vinegar atop the mozzarella, all resting on a thin crust. Hot, tasty and very good, about 12 inches in diameter, and more than enough for a first course for two. Definitely not St. Louis-style pizza, extremely satisfying to the provelophobic.
Pasta, obviously, is the feature, and mostly the traditional styles—kids who love spaghetti and meatballs will be very happy. Pasta Bolognese was linguine rather than the described spaghetti, but the sauce was delicious, thick with meat and a little cream, as can be found in some old-country versions. Aside from a ratio of sauce-to-pasta that leaned heavily toward the sauce, we had no quibbles.
There's always a risotto of the day, as well as chicken, veal and seafood daily specials. Our shrimp a la griglia had six large shrimp patted with seasoned breadcrumbs, arranged around a mound of properly al dente spaghetti with garlic and olive oil. As often happens with bread-crumbed things, some bites were crispy and others were soggy. But the shrimp were flavorful and not overcooked, and the crumbs nicely garlicky.
Only a single dessert offering, tiramisu, but it was a simple, classic version that was light and both fluffy and creamy. The wine list is Italian with a good by-the-glass selection. We drank a Matane Primitivo, dry but full-bodied with lots of fruit notes, led by black currant. Extremely professional, quite zippy service.
17402 Chesterfield Airport Rd., Chesterfield
Lunch & Dinner Mon.-Sat.
Credit cards: Yes
Wheelchair access: Good