Another one of those places that I've driven by many times and always wondered about is Guido's Pizzeria and Tapas on The Hill in St. Louis (see map). It looks like one of the many delightful neighborhood restaurants that The Hill is famous for. So one evening while I was in St. Louis recently, I thought I'd stop in and give it a try.
I walked in and looked at the small bar area wondering if I would be able to eat at the bar. But the seats - about 10 of them - were all taken. I was soon met at the host stand by Miguel Carretero, the owner. It was about 9 p.m. and I asked, "Is it too late to get dinner?"
He said, "No sir. We're open until 11 p.m. Come on in, we'll get you fed."
Miguel's father, Segundo, was from Spain and emigrated with his family to the U.S. in the 60's. After working for the upscale Tony's restaurant in downtown St. Louis for 18 years, Segundo Carretero opened up his own place - Guido's, which was Miguel's nickname his friends had placed upon him. (He was named Guido after the Saturday Night Live character Father Guido Sarducci whom Miguel supposedly looked like). Over the years, the Carretero's opened three Guido's around the city specializing primarily in Italian food.
In 2000, the Carretero's consolidated their restaurants into one Guido's on The Hill. Miguel Carretero decided that he'd like to introduce the Spanish bar food known as tapas to St. Louis to celebrate the family's Spanish heritage. Initially on Friday and Saturday nights, Miguel's mother, Genoveva, made the tapas. Now, the tapas are available on a nightly basis.
But I was more interested in trying their pizza. Miguel Carretero showed me to a table in their brightly lit dining room and gave me a menu. He said my waiter, Charles, would be with me in a moment.
There were a handful of people in the place, including a couple guys who were talking in Spanish with Miguel at a table, and a group of about 10 who were eating tapas and talking in Spanish at a table near me. I figured they may be Spanish natives as they were all eating tapas at the table.
I was sort of impressed with the variety of tapas they had on the menu. Our daughter, Sara, lived and studied in Spain for nearly a year and I knew she'd be impressed, too, with what they had for their tapas. Considering they only started out with about 6 or 8 items when they first began to offer tapas when they opened at this location, they had one whole menu page devoted to cold and hot tapas - about 30 items in all. The tapas were tempting, but I wanted pizza that night.
Guido's pizza is the thin crust variety St. Louis-style pizza is famous for. However, you have your choice of either using the St. Louis-style Provel cheese, or going with mozzarella. I decided that I'd go with a 12" (which is a medium size) Italian sausage, pepperoni and mushroom - my old stand-by - with mozzarella. Charles took my order and said it would be ready in about 20 minutes.
And right at about 20 minutes later, my pizza showed up. It had the bubbly, crunchy crust that I like. The sausage on top were the big chunks - just as I like it. The pepperoni and mushrooms were very flavorful and fresh - just as I like it. And the sauce was a wonderful blend of sweet and tangy, maybe just a little too sweet, though. It was a great pizza, quite possibly the best one I've ever had in St. Louis. It was no problem finishing the whole thing.
After I finished, as I was getting up to leave, Miguel Carretero excused himself from a conversation and walked over to me to see if everything was fine. I told him, "It was great. Your pizza was wonderful. The sauce is just a little too sweet for me, but I still like it."
He said the sauce was homemade and was from a family recipe his mother came up with. I wasn't going to argue with him. It was a minor quibble on my part.
He asked if it was my first time in and I said it was, but I'd driven by many times. He asked if I was from the area and I said, no, I was from Iowa. He said, "Iowa!? You in town on business?"
I told him I was and he said, "Well, I hope you come back to see us when you come back to St. Louis."
I said, "Well, as often as I make it to St. Louis, you'll probably see me in here a few times in the future."
Guido's Pizzeria and Tapas was just named the Best Cheap Italian Food restaurant by the Riverfront Times, the local St. Louis weekly entertainment paper. I'm glad I finally went in. The price of my pizza was reasonable, the taste was wonderful, the service impeccable and I really felt that Miguel Carretero cared about his clientele. Now that I know how good the pizza is at Guido's, I'll be back. And I may even want to try the tapas at some point, too.
(Update March 2012 - And I have been back to Guido's a number of times. Although the pizza sauce is still a little too sweet for my taste, the pizza and other food at Guido's continues to be top notch. And a good value.)