Quattro Trattoria + Pizzeria wants to tell you about its pizza. Of course, many St. Louis restaurants want to tell you about their pizzas, but Quattro, which opened in April inside the Westin St. Louis downtown, goes into more detail than most.
“Our pizzas are made in a 700-degree oven so that the crust gets the correct amount of crispy texture,” the menu states.
I didn’t bring a thermometer to Quattro to fact-check the oven temperature, but the crusts of both the margherita ($10) and the coppa-sausage-pepperoni Trio ($13) pizzas yielded with a light crackle and supported their toppings.
The menu clears its throat. Did it mention the pizza’s finely ground Italian 00 flour?
The menu continues: “This fine grind along with a + 12% gluten level gives the dough just enough elasticity — a crust that is chewy but not too rubbery with just the right amount of puff around the edge.”
Here, too, the pizzas I ordered delivered on the menu’s promise. The crust definitely snaps back. It isn’t airy, but it isn’t dense, either. The edge, indeed, isn’t too puffy.
Notice, though, that Quattro isn’t simply describing its pizza but arguing on its behalf: the “correct amount” of crisp texture, “just enough elasticity,” “just the right amount of puff around the edge.”
This is an argument for offending no one, and while the crust is structurally sound, it risks nothing that might stick in your memory, no gorgeous freckling or blistering from the oven’s high heat, no airy pockets or tangy flavor to give the crust itself character.
The toppings must define the pizzas. The Trio, with its three meats, tomato sauce and a combination of mozzarella and grana padano, gets by. The margherita lacks grace. Its tomato punch, both a sauce and halved cherry tomatoes, is too bright. The blobs of fresh mozzarella retain too much of their shape and chew and are pushed too close together.
It isn’t the quality of pizza you would expect from a restaurant that advances a theory of pizza. This is the tension at Quattro, which has replaced Clark Street Grill as the Westin’s restaurant under the guidance of Josh Wedel, who has been with the hotel for 18 years.
I certainly appreciate the Westin’s desire to refresh its restaurant. St. Louis is undergoing a hotel boom, and the early entrants have been bold with their dining options. The Angad Arts Hotel in midtown brought in a celebrity New York City chef for Grand Tavern by David Burke, while Hotel St. Louis downtown and the Last Hotel in downtown west have given the stage to local talents, with Matt Birkenmeier (Quincy Street Bistro) at the former’s Union 30 and Evy Swoboda (Pastaria) at the latter’s Last Kitchen.
Granted, I had decidedly mixed experiences at both Grand Tavern and Union 30 — I haven’t visited the Last Kitchen yet — but I applaud the hotels’ ambition. And even without the current hotel boom, the Westin would feel the pressure to change things up. This decade has seen the renovation of the Cheshire, which introduced Basso and the Restaurant at the Cheshire (now Boundary), and the venerable Chase Park Plaza also revamping some of its dining options. Just last year, the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis replaced the excellent Italian restaurant Cielo with Cinder House, a new project from the city’s most acclaimed chef, Gerard Craft.
Quattro’s pride in the finely milled details of its pizza fits the 2019 mode, but in practice it feels performative. The space is generic; the only distinctive design element is the aforementioned pizza oven in the open kitchen.
The menu, at best, evokes familiar pleasures. A plank of chicken Milanese ($18) hits that sweet spot of crunch and tender. The kitchen buries the dish in a salad of arugula, tomato and mozzarella, a striking plating that also offers the bite to counter the heavy chicken. The Balsamico ($14), a pasta, gilds creste di galli in a silken balsamic cream sauce with chicken for ballast and asparagus for a little character.
The gnocchi sorrento ($15), in contrast, with mozzarella and basil in a tomato-ricotta cream sauce, is a morass of soft textures and muted flavors. The bruschetta pomodoro ($10), like the pizza margherita, is sloppy in execution, slathered with so much ricotta that it smothers the impact of the tomato, grana padano and a balsamic glaze.
As much as the menu wants to talk about pizza, Quattro’s most telling dish is the toasted ravioli ($7). The T-ravs are fine. They are identical to the T-ravs served at most Italian restaurants and pizzerias in town. The menu doesn’t bother to tell you anything distinctive about them, which if you want to keep your expectations in check, is a relief.
Where Quattro Trattoria + Pizzeria, Westin St. Louis, 811 Spruce Street • 1½ stars out of four • More info 314-621-2000; quattrostlouis.com • Menu Italian fare • Hours Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily