Q • We’d like the recipe for the French Onion au Gratin Soup at Balducci’s in Maryland Heights; it tops the old Famous-Barr soup. — Mary and Lonnie Kopuster, St. Peters
A • “Balducci’s is a great place on a gloomy day,” says owner Rick Balducci of his cozy, taverna-style basement restaurant, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.
Nights, it’s packed with regulars from nearby apartments and homes, groups, couples and families with kids, all hungry for Balducci’s pizza. When the restaurant opened, Balducci imagined an Italian deli with lots of wine, no pizza. “But customers asked for pizza; now we’re known for it,” Balducci says. The restaurant makes its own sauce, cheese blend and spice mix and offers two crusts, “St. Louis thin” and “Chicago deep dish.”
Balducci’s sister, Joanie Balducci Shinall, has “done it all” for the restaurant and makes big pots of onion soup every couple of days, shedding no tears while chopping the onions. “I rinse my hands under cold water every so often; it works for me,” she says.
The soup features white wine from grapes grown and bottled at Balducci Vineyards in Augusta, the winery Balducci and his wife, Carol, began almost 20 years ago. Balducci’s father was a longtime wine-seller in the St. Louis area; the couple’s son Nic is the vineyards’ winemaker.
The vineyards restaurant and the Maryland Heights restaurant share some menu items, such as pizza and salad. The onion soup is usually served only at Maryland Heights, but this month it is also available at the vineyards.
12527 Bennington Plaza, Maryland Heights