This Echo-Friendly Restaurant Prides Itself On Sustainability And Local Support From Farmers.
A lively restaurant scene turned St. Louis and surrounding cities into destinations for food lovers. For example, St. Charles, a city west of St. Louis and on the other side of the Missouri River, “is on fire in terms of restaurants,” notes Joan Daleo, president of St. Charles, MO-based wholesaler Ole Tyme Produce.
St. Louis chefs have become strongly loyal to local, even with the city’s four-season climate. “Living in St. Louis, we have access to a lot of great produce, but we also have to cook with the seasons,” says chef Gerard Craft, recipient of the ‘James Beard Best Chef: Midwest’ award and owner of Pastaria, Porano Pasta, and Sardella. “Due to our changing weather of hot, humid summers and cold winters, we had to learn to utilize what I call humble ingredients — carrots, potatoes, root vegetables — in new and interesting ways.”
Seasonality also creates excitement and a sense of urgency. Chef Craft notes, “at our restaurants, we appreciate our short seasons for spring and summer produce, and we highlight those products on our menus. One ingredient can be featured in a multitude of ways from pickled to dehydrated to grilled to raw. We also look for ways to preserve and ferment those products into the other seasons.”
According to Jennifer McDaniel, MS, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, St. Louis, restaurants in the city (such as Schlafly Bottleworks & Taproom, Sidney Street Café, Katie’s Pizza and Pasta, and Element Restaurant & Lounge) go beyond just using local items and grow their own.
“It is not uncommon to see a farmer’s name or farm location on menus when dining out in the Lou,” says McDaniel. “When restaurants use local produce, they educate diners and heighten the awareness of supporting local farming. At the same time, with extreme seasonal conditions of St. Louis, local produce is not always available in large enough quantities for restaurant use.”
From the chef’s perspective, St. Louis markets are following the lead of restaurants in their creativity. Executive Chef Tony Marchetto of Prasino points out that Dierberg’s is proud of its growing percentage of local produce items, many of which may have been introduced on the menus of St. Louis restaurants.
Chef Marchetto, proprietor of Prasino, St. Charles, is so committed to fruits and vegetables that he received a Produce Excellence in Foodservice Award, honoring chefs for their innovative and influential use of fresh produce in the culinary arts, from the United Fresh Produce Association in 2015.
Having trained in restaurants that focus on local sourcing, Chef Marchetto believes in purchasing close to home. “I want to support the farmers that I love — farmers that I have known for 12 years,” he says. “We’ve grown up together. I remember, for example, when St. Isidore Farms in Moscow Mills, MO, grew just tomatoes. Now it takes the farmer an hour to read me his list of available items.”
Prasino purchases from a close circle of sources rather than a classic middleman. One of the restaurant’s suppliers, Crop Circle, offers produce from several local farms. Additionally, Chef Marchetto often works with Ole Tyme Produce’s Daleo to bring more farmers into local sourcing for area restaurants.
The restaurant, open since spring 2013, offers an eclectic menu driven by sustainability. Chef Marchetto describes the menu as “all over the place” with dishes such as sushi, omelets, and steaks that nonetheless remain united in their presentation of local and organic ingredients whenever possible.
Historically voted among the best breakfasts in St. Louis by patrons, Prasino’s breakfast menu features vegetable-filled omelets and a variety of fruits. Included on the summer lunch menu are house-made slaws and pickles. Nearly all dinner items incorporate vegetables and several desserts pair fruit with cake.
“Prasino is known for its salads filled with locally sourced lettuce, mixed greens, Lolla Rosa, Black kale, and other greens; the only thing I buy non-local is organic watercress,” says Chef Marchetto. “We chop the greens fresh every morning. We like to say that our patrons bite into a farm when they eat our salads.”
Chef Marchetto cultivates new menu ideas by bonding with farmers over “all the crossbred heirloom seeds that farmers geek out on. They enjoy growing certain foods that chefs like me go nuts about, like heirloom potatoes and funky varieties of squash,” he says. Farmers want to see what they can grow and introduce to the marketplace and encourage chefs to use, items like wild spinach, varieties of arugula, and less-common herbs.”
Produce-centric restaurants like Prasino look for innovative sources of vegetables during the off-season. “Farmers are growing inside tunnels and underground, exploring hydroponics, and building indoor farms to extend their growing season year-round and better meet the needs of the vibrant St. Louis restaurant scene.”
At Prasino, Chef Marchetto is highly committed to green initiatives. He seeks out vendors that demonstrate “responsible stewardship of the environment. The ranchers and farmers we partner with additionally practice sustainability of their land.”
In 2015 and 2016, Saint Louis Magazine recognized Prasino among its “Faces of Green Dining.” The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch named Prasino “Best in St. Charles brunch and farm to table restaurant in 2015.”
1520 South Fifth Street
Saint Charles, MO 63303
Monday – Thursday: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Friday: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Saturday: 8 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Sunday: 8 a.m. – 9 p.m.