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Talayna's Chicken Maria

Talayna's Chicken Maria, photographed on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013. Photo by Robert Cohen,

Q • I would like the recipe for Talayna’s Chicken Maria, a chicken dish with spinach and a red sauce. — Lynne Gebert, Ballwin

A • Twenty years after the original Talayna’s opened at Skinker Boulevard and Forest Park Parkway in 1964, owner Mike Faille’s former employee and friend Mehdi Rouhani opened another Talayna’s Restaurant in West County. The original closed in 1997, but the Chesterfield location remains. Rouhani says, “We may be the oldest restaurant in Chesterfield and the oldest pizzeria in St. Louis.”

There, Talayna fans will recognize the signature stained glass and menu items, including the restaurant’s three pizza crusts: a made-to-order St. Louis-style hand-stretched thin crust, a New York-style hand-tossed crust and a Chicago-style deep-dish crust. Recently, Rouhani added a fourth “artisan” crust specked with herbs. He says the oval-shaped crust is one pizza connoisseurs want to try. “It’s something to taste.”

Born in Iran and a self-taught etymologist, Rouhani appreciates pizza for its culinary multiculturalism. He says pizza comes from the Greek word for flatbread, “pita” or “pitta.” You top it with sauce made from tomatoes indigenous to the New World and cheese to India, so you’ve built not an Italian pie but a transnational food. Rouhani welcomes the surge of new pizza places in St. Louis. “It brings excitement to the pizza, so many different approaches.”

Rouhani and his wife of 33 years, Susan, also own Candicci’s Italian Restaurant on the “other hill” in Ballwin. In 2014, they will convert Talayna’s banquet center overlooking a golf course into a winery and restaurant.

Special Request is written by Kirkwood resident Alanna Kellogg, author of the online recipe column and “veggie evangelist” at the food blog about vegetables, A Veggie Venture.