If anyone wants proof St. Louis isn't as stick-in-the-mud as some folks claim, consider Lorenzo's. The moderately upscale restaurant on The Hill does what can only be called Modern Italian. That's in considerable contrast to its neighbors who, except for the Spanish-tabled Modesto, range from Italian delis to black-tie haunts of folks wanting what they've cherished for the past 40 years. Don't let the word "modern" raise blood pressures, though; there's a pasta section on the menu, but there are plenty of beyond-the-usual options there, too.
Fried calamari, yes, but chef-owner Larry Fuze pairs them with strips of zucchini, both lightly battered and quickly fried, then anointed with a saffron-touched vinaigrette that gives a little added zip. Hard for some of us to imagine zucchini being satisfying, but this certainly does the job. A nightly special's lobster ravioli didn't arrive with its promised white wine sauce, but rather a chunky brown sauce tasting of artichoke and tomato with perhaps some marsala thrown in, delicious and complex.
The Bibb lettuce salad, fluffy and tender, sports small dice of salami and what seemed to be mortadella, as well as red onions, crisp, and fresh parmesan croutons. The dressing described as sweet onion reminds us that this is Vidalia season, and onion in salad dressing is an underappreciated addition. But this turns out to be a lightly onion-y dressing that is sweet, and that's what happens when a diner is reluctant to ask. A good dressing, just not what we'd expected.
Yes, pizza, about 10 inches in diameter, a handmade crust that's medium-thick, and toppings that reflect the house's style, like roasted garlic, pepperoni and black olives or grilled chicken and pesto. Ours wore a generous amount of mushrooms, diced prosciutto that crisped up, and some sage, making it particularly hearty. And a good, good crust.
Veal chops are standard on most Italian restaurants around town, and Fuze's t-bone chop was succulent. But it was the side that stood out, a tomato bread pudding with truffle, the rich flavor absolutely seductive, the texture moist but not soggy, a little chewy at the edges, a remarkable dish. A marsala sauce on the chop seemed not just wan but superfluous, though; still, it didn't intrude on the whole game. Lorenzo's liver is a long-standing favorite. Tender, not over-cooked, and dressed in a balsamic reduction with pearl onions and mushrooms, plus some crisped-up pancetta, the base of the dish is a serving of polenta, perfect for wiping up the savory-sweet juices and sauce.
The house bread pudding arrives as thin slices, which emphasizes even more its delicate texture. A nice hit of cinnamon melds well with the caramel sauce, although the promised amaretto seems almost indistinguishable. That's fine; this is still a particularly good version of a dish that's now almost ubiquitous on local dessert menus. This one can stay.
Primarily an older crowd, although a table with a couple of very young children added to the din of dining. Amiable service, certainly, although slightly uncoordinated at times, but nothing to seriously distract from the pleasures of the table.
Credit cards: Yes
Wheelchair access: Poor