Do the names Imo's, Talayna's and Ferrato's mean anything to you?
If they do, you've spent enough time in St. Louis to learn a thing or two about the unusual pizza they make in that city--and about the restaurants where you get it, including those three.
If, on the other hand, the names mean nothing to you but you like pizza, high-tail it to JJ's Pizzeria in Sherman Oaks.
When Jeff Morose and Jim Frost opened JJ's in the fall of 1996, they thought San Fernando Valley folks might take to a food that people from St. Louis never forget, with its thin crust and unusual blends of fresh cheeses and toppings. Since then Morose and Frost have paid some dues as first-time restaurant owners and gained a following.
"We're successful and have a good following now," Jeff Morose says. "We went from being chief cooks and bottle washers to owners in about a year and a half. We even have employees now and an expanded menu. How about that?"
What makes their pizza special?
It's the crust, made with no lard, no animal fat and no vegetable oil, Morose says. It's also the cheeses and the sauces on top, he adds.
"There's a section of St. Louis called "The Hill," in south St. Louis--heavily Italian, and maybe the best place to eat pizza in the world," Morose says. "Anybody from St. Louis also knows about Imo's, a big chain of restaurants in St. Louis, and about Talayna's near Washington University, and Ferrato's in Rock Hill--all great . . . .
"Jim and I met when we both worked at Cafe Luna on Melrose, and since we're both from St. Louis, we used to complain that we couldn't get St. Louis style pizza here in Los Angeles," Morose says. "And then we started talking about opening up our own place. . . . .
"We also make toasted ravioli now . . . with a marinara dipping sauce. That's a big thing in St. Louis."
Also new on the menu: fettuccine Alfredo, calzone filled with vegetables or meatballs and pepperoni, and a St. Louis-style salad of iceberg and romaine lettuce, artichoke hearts, red onion and pimento.
Prices start at $7.95 for a 12-inch cheese pizza, $9.95 for a 14-inch; extra toppings start at 75 cents.
JJ's Pizzeria seats up to 25 people; it offers take-out and delivery. The restaurant is at 15053 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, (818) 986-4557.
Di Gennaro Ristorante in Woodland Hills offers a special wine-tasting dinner Feb. 26 featuring the wines of the Italian winery Banfi.
Partners Santino De Felice and Cheryl Keller plan a five-course menu--prosciutto and melon as an appetizer, a salad of greens and walnuts with a balsamic vinaigrette, a first course of gnocchi with a sauce of tomato and basil, an entree of a veal chop with a brandy-mushroom sauce, and for dessert, tiramisu.
The Banfi wines: a brut champagne with the appetizer, a San Angelo pinot grigio white with the salad, a red Col di Sasso with the gnocchi, a Summus red with the chop, and a sweet wine with dessert.
The $60 per person includes tax and tip; reservations are a must. De Gennaro Ristorante is at 20969 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills, (818) 347-3413.
Want to treat your Valentine to takeout?
BG to Go--short for Bistro Garden to Go in Studio City--offers a three-course meal for Valentine's Day including a tomato basil soup or baby green salad, peppered salmon or rack of lamb, and for dessert a raspberry souffle or chocolate mousse cake.
The cost: $26.95. Dinner comes with a pair of candles to set the mood. BG to Go is at 12930 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, (818) 366-3246.
From the errors and omissions department comes word that the writer of this august column managed to misunderstand the special Valentine's Day deal at the Steak Joynt in North Hollywood.
The deal is any appetizer, soup or salad and entree for $14 plus the cost of the entree. The deal does include a bottle of house wine plus a free sheepish grin from him-who-shall-remain-nameless.
The Steak Joynt is at 4354 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 761-9899.
* Juan Hovey writes about the restaurant scene in the San Fernando Valley and outlying points. He may be reached at (805) 492-7909 or fax (805) 492-5139 or via e-mail at JHovey@compuserve.com