While I'm not always the advocate of chain restaurants, Il Vicino in Clayton, Missouri (the St. Louis area) falls in that short list of exceptions. With around eight locations total, this is definitely worth a stop for lunch or dinner.
In our search for something nearby our hotel on a Sunday evening, the concierge suggested we put this one on the list to consider. Thank you concierge! While it starts with ordering at a counter, the service after is very good and the menu varied enough to please. The focus is primarily on made-to-order pizzas, with pastas, sandwiches, soups and salads also on the list. The roasted garlic tomato soup was some of the best I've had, however the Minestrone did seem to contain about every veggie they could find chopped into large hunks. (I prefer a smaller, more easily consumed diced version of veggies in soup, but that's just me.)
Then there was the pizza. Ranking as probably one of the top five pizzas I've had, to say it's good is not really fair. It starts with a wood oven baked thin crust. Topped with a variety of choices, but the one I chose had roasted red peppers. Ordinarily I avoid any peppers on pizza because most chefs simply dice up a red pepper and toss it raw onto the pizza. It comes out crunchy, and I don't care for the texture. The only things that should crunch on a pizza are a really crisp thin crust or bacon. Beyond that, it should be spicy, ooey, gooey goodness. So when I ordered it without the peppers and it arrived decorated in red strips I was apprehensive. Thankfully I gave it a try. Red pepper, with all that rich flavor and none of the offensive raw crunch. Yes! Oh, it had some other toppings too including chicken, fontina cheese and sun dried tomatoes. All in all, a mighty fine pie.
Across the table from me, my husband had pretty noteworthy pizza. The sausage on his pizza was fantastic, probably some of the best I've had anywhere.
Il Vicino has a small corner cafe appeal, it's cozy yet a reasonable choice for a small family to dine. It's one of the few places that reminds me of restaurants in Italy, minus the long-aged feel that seems just natural to all the eateries there. Give it a few hundred years and they'll be right at home. In the mean time, I hope they don't change the recipes!