Downtown diners have plenty of fast-casual options, especially for lunch. So what sets Porano apart? It begins with the owner, Gerard Craft, who won a James Beard Award for “Best Chef: Midwest” in 2015, a year before this Italian eatery opened.
Craft brings a relentless energy to the dining experience, and customers feel comfortable enough at his tabletops to explore new flavors and combinations. That’s how Porano gets away with sauces like pumpkin-seed pesto atop a base of farro, an Italian grain.
The Italian influences at Porano are pure, but not rigid—which is how executive chef Michael Petres was able to add Detroit-style pizza to the menu. With a crust more like focaccia than crackers and a caramelized, crusty edge of mozzarella, it’s a novelty among the many pizza styles served locally. The base + protein + sauce + toppings formula lends itself over very traditional comfort foods, like pasta with rich sugo sauce, smoked park and Parmesan—or lighter fare like romaine and kale with marinated chicken, vinaigrette and crispy garlic. Craft and his team source local ingredients from tofu to vegetables, and they have perfected house-made pasta that holds up to the demands of the fast-casual dining line.
Porano is one of several distinct ventures operated in St. Louis by Craft’s Niche Food Group. The ambitious restaurateur is already expanding his restaurant footprint beyond St. Louis, with the opening of a second Pastaria in Nashville during the fall of 2017. Similar to Porano, Pastaria’s wildly popular location in St. Louis’ upscale Clayton neighborhood also riffs on the theme of modern Italian food, making it the perfect concept for expansion.
Stay tuned for more of this delicious saga.
634 Washington Ave.
St. Louis, Missouri, 63101
While You’re In The Neighborhood …
Hiro Asian Kitchen
Thanks to owner/chef Bernie Lee, St. Louisans can sample the flavors of East Asia from a diverse menu.
1405 Washington Ave.
Sauce on the Side
This calzone shop offers a mix of classics and unique fare, with dozens of filling options wrapped in house-made dough.
411 N. 8th St.
Cielo Restaurant & Bar
Cielo’s patio on the eighth floor of the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis showcases the scenic Arch grounds and Downtown skyline.
999 N. 2nd St.
Photograph courtesy of Carmen Troesser.
This story originally appeared in ALIVE’s sister publication GUIDED: Downtown. Pick up your complimentary copy.