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Request: Trattoria Marcella's whole stuffed artichoke

A whole stuffed artichoke, with couscous, herbs, grated Parmigiano cheese and toasted pine nuts, at Trattoria Marcella, 3600 Watson Road in St. Louis. Photo by Christian Gooden, cgooden@post-dispatch.com

Q • We always order the delicious stuffed artichoke at Trattoria Marcella. YUM. — Jane Orling, St. Louis

A • Twenty years ago, the hottest restaurant in town was Trattoria Marcella. Reservations were hard to come by as word spread about Trattoria’s now-signature lobster risotto, pork osso buco and Brussels sprouts salad plus an overflowing wine selection.

Chef Steve Komorek says that he and co-owner and brother Jamie Komorek remain true to Trattoria’s Marcella’s original concept of imaginative, rustic “Italian soul food” — the secret, he says, is simple food, prepared well.

Right from the beginning, Trattoria Marcella (pronounced trot-a-REE-a mar-SELL-a) built relationships with local farmers and made almost everything in house. “We didn’t talk about it; we just did it,” Komorek says. At the same time, it was important to stay current and relevant. “We were one of the first to make salumi, Italian cured meats.”

Komorek is especially pleased about new interest from young, food-savvy patrons and families who order carry-out for pre-performance picnics outside the Muny.

For Trattoria’s 20th-anniversary celebration in June, the Komoreks plan “greatest hits” specials; a block party and pig roast; a $19.95 wine dinner to mark the founding in 1995. Watch the restaurant’s Facebook page for details. Komorek is reluctant to peer too far into Trattoria Marcella’s future. After all, he says, “It’s tonight that matters to tonight’s customers.”

Whole Stuffed Artichokes are labor-intensive “labors of love” but have been on Trattoria Marcella’s menu since Day One. The artichokes are big and buttery, perfect for sharing or a meatless entrée. “It’s so communal and primal,” Komorek says, “eating with your hands.”

In addition to Trattoria Marcella, this week only the artichokes will also be offered (dinner only) at Mia Sorella, the Komoreks’ sister restaurant in Ballwin on Clayton Road just west of Highway 141.

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

To request a recipe, send the name and location of the restaurant and a description of the dish to reciperequest@post-dispatch.com. Restaurants feaured in this column must be in the St. Louis area. Include your full name, hometown and daytime phone number.


Trattoria Marcella

3600 Watson Road

314-352-7706; trattoriamarcella.com

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