7266 manchester road, maplewood mo
monday november 30th 2010 7:15-
pronounced uh-CHER-oh, and meaning maple in italian, acero is a terrific restaurant in maplewood missouri featuring sicilian cuisine. acero is owned by chef/restauranteur jim fiala, who owns three other restaurants in the st. louis area (the crossing, liluma, and the terrace view), and has previously worked at michelin starred restaurants such as spiaggia in chicago and daniel in new york. this trip to acero would be our second, and our last visit left us with very high expectations for our return.
our reservation was for 7:30, but we arrived around 7:10, and were seated promptly and without issue. acero is a fairly small space, with seating for maybe 50 diners. within moments, our water was poured, and a large clear bottle was left at our table. this ensured that we would never be left without water. some may argue that at a fine restaurant, water service should be provided by a server, and your glass should never reach half empty. however, i personally do not mind acero's approach to water in the least, as i drink a lot of water, and having a server constantly hovering can somtimes put a damper on conversation.
shortly there after, we were greeted by our server, a friendly and helpful young woman, who did an excellent job that evening. she mentioned a few specials, and left us to look over the menu. acero offers items al a carte, or a four course tasting menu. as i always want to try as much as possible, we went with the tasting menu, and added a few extra items al a carte. acero's wine program lends itself very well to a tasting style menu. wine can be ordered by the quartino (which is about a third of a bottle), which can be split between two people. this allows you to try multiple wines throughout the meal instead of trying to find a single bottle that will pair well with everything.
while i do very much enjoy wine, i still have a lot to learn about pairing it with food. acero's wine list is exclusively italian, which made things even more difficult for me. to be safe, i asked our server to use her judgement, and bring us three quartinos throughout the course of the night.
after placing our orders, a warm loaf of bread was delivered. the standard olive oil was offered on the table to accompany the bread. i was slightly let down by the bread, as it was not quite as good as i had remembered from our previous visit.
for our first courses, my wife and i each went with the acero salad. the salad consisted of romaine lettuce, egg, onion, salumi, and a herb vinaigrette. paired with the salads was our first wine quartino of the evening, a white wine made from the falanghina grape. this was a nicely balanced wine, being not too dry or too sweet, and was great with the salads.
along with the salads, we also supplemented a dish entitled gnocco fritto. these were basically pastry puffs topped with prosciutto. we really enjoyed these, and could have probably eaten another plate full of them!
following the salads was the pasta course. we added one extra item, and shared all three selections. pictured above is the egg raviolo. this dish is a single pasta pillow stuffed with cheese and an egg yolk, and topped with a cream sauce. the raviolo was incredibly rich and delicious, and eating more than one of them would have been difficult.
our second pasta choice was the tagliatelle with wild mushrooms, shallots, and parmesean. this was probably my favorite dish of the night. the thin tagliatelle noodles were wonderful in both taste and mouthfeel, and the mushrooms, although small, had a nice full flavor.
finally, our last pasta selection was the ricotta gnudi. this was my wife's favorite dish of the evening, and i let her eat most of it. the bite of it i had was enjoyable, but i do not remember much about it.
for our main entrees, we both opted for the mangalista pork ribeye with roasted potatoes and salsa verde. the ribeye was nicely marbled, perfectly juicy, and had a wonderful rich flavor. the potatoes had a slight crispiness to them, and were also quite good.
for dessert, we chose the bread pudding and the panna cotta, and shared them both. shown above, the bread pudding for the evening was made with apples, and served with vanilla ice cream. while it was nothing revolutionary, acero's bread pudding was quite formidable, and was my wife's favorite of the two desserts.
the panna cotta, which is an eggless custard, was topped with a salty carmel sauce. while my wife found it to be a bit to rich for her taste, i absoultely loved it. i think it was the subtle salt flavor that really did it for me.
to go with the desserts, my wife enjoyed a cappuccino, and i had a nice single malt scotch. the oban 14 year was my selection for the evening.
below are the tasting notes from whisky.com
Strength: 43% ABV
Appearance: Olive gold.
Nose: Rich sweetness and fruits - oranges, lemons and pears, with sea-salt and peaty smokiness.
Body: Full, rich.
Palate: Mouth-filling late autumn fruits - dried figs and honey-sweet spices; followed by a smoky malty dryness.
Finish: Long, smooth-sweet finish with oak-wood, dryness and a grain of salt.
after savoring the last drop of my whisky, we paid the bill, and made our way to the car. on this evening, acero delivered in just about every aspect. between the two of us, we were able to try seven different dishes (had we not both ordered the same salad and entree, it could have been nine), and not once did acero misstep or faulter in any way. acero is a great restaurant for someone who enjoys italian cooking, but has tired of menus filled with basic choices like chicken parmeasean, fettucine alfredo, and lasagna. acero's menu changes with the seasons, and i fully intend to return to acero a few times a year to try new dishes.