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Special Request: Rigazzi's stacks layers of fried eggplant, mozzarella, tomato

Special Request: Rigazzi's stacks layers of fried eggplant, mozzarella, tomato

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The Eggplant Stack at Rigazzi?s

The Eggplant Stack at Rigazzi?s is listed as a salad, but this lush variation on a Caprese salad theme eats more like an entree. The meaty eggplant contrasts well with the fresh tomatoes and creamy eggplant. The bright dressing and the snap of arugula deepens the flavors of each ingredient. Photo by Pat Eby

Q • I just dined at Rigazzi’s on the Hill. I ordered the Eggplant Stack, with the high recommendation of our server, Krista. I am so happy I listened to her! The eggplant is breaded and cooked with mozzarella and tomato in between the stacks. It is delicious and so beautifully presented. Maybe you can obtain the recipe? — Mary Hanson, Kirkwood

A • Owner Joan Aiazzi of Rigazzi’s was delighted to bring this recipe to Post-Dispatch readers. The Eggplant Stack has only been on the menu for a short time, but it’s already a customer favorite.

“We’ve been in business 62 years,” she says. “About two years ago, I had such a hankering for a tomato and mozzarella salad. I would regularly have a sit-down with our chef, and I’d tell him what I was thinking. He thought maybe we could do something with grape tomatoes and mozzarella pearls, but that didn’t quite seem right. When we had these early Saturday meetings, we would always share an order of our Eggplant Parmigiana which I love. I couldn’t let go of this salad idea, and one day we put these two things together, and that’s how the Eggplant Stacks started.”

The genius of the dish lies in its simplicity. It’s not overdone. The preparation is straightforward, which allows the flavors of the ingredients to shine. The eggplant, coated with an egg wash and a delicate fine cream cracker breading, benefits from its tomato topper dressed with Rigazzi’s own velvety balsamic dressing. The slabs of fresh mozzarella contribute a salty creaminess while the arugula adds a piquancy to the whole. The tomato and black olive topper on this salad dish that eats like an entree contribute a bit of whimsy to the plate.

Chef James “Sokko” Lahrman, who has worked at the restaurant for 42 years, plated this dish for us in between handling deliveries and cooking for the remnants of the early bird diners who frequent Rigazzi’s after their night shift ends.

“We have a happy hour from 8 to 10 in the morning for the night shift workers. People come in and order pizza and beers, mostly nurses from the nearby hospitals,” Aiazzi says. We have a lot of fun here. It’s changed through the years, though, because we had so much manufacturing across the street — Magic Chef and Coin Acceptor for the big guys. We had a constant flow with shift changes. The nature of the beast has evolved and changed, but the red checked tablecloths have not.”

Aiazzi didn’t plan to run a restaurant; she married into a restaurant family. “In 1957 my late father-in-law, Lou, and one of his very great friends, John Riganti, opened Rigazzi’s. The name is a mix of both their names — RI from Riganti, and AZZI from Aiazzi. Four years later in 1961, they split amicably and remained good friends,” she says.

“I met my husband when we were in college at UMSL. He was all set to go to Mizzou when his dad died. He was just 18. He changed his plans, and it all worked out good for us. We married and had five children.

“When we married we agreed I would not ever work here. I’m an accountant by trade. Then we had a really big fire here 20 years ago. I came in to work full time to handle all the paperwork and stayed,” she says. When her husband, Mark, died in 2013, Joan stepped in to run the family business.

“My mother-in-law, Josie, is almost 92. She still comes in to eat every day,” Aiazzi says. “She’s on the later lunch shift. Her job is to have a good time and talk with the customers.

“I was just with my sisters recently and they talked about the recipes they saved — from the Post — and how they make them over and over again. Some of them are ours, like our lentil soup,” she says. “That’s one of the reasons we don’t mind sharing our recipes.”


4945 Daggett Avenue


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