Liliana’s Italian Kitchen hasn’t been open a year, but diners know a good thing when they see it

Although an especially smug diner might find the decor passé, the strip mall location garish, and the St. Louis–style house salad unhip, there’s nothing pedestrian about satisfying food prepared with sincerity and care.

No matter what time you come into Liliana’s Italian Kitchen, you’ll find diners twirling forkfuls of tomato-sauced noodles, folding slices of piping-hot pizza, and devouring meaty sandwiches. You might also see a few people waiting for to-go orders by the deli case or at the takeout window. It’s impressive, considering that Liliana’s remains open between traditional lunch and dinner hours. The Italian-American restaurant hasn’t been open a year, but neighborhood diners know a good thing when they see it.

The 75-seat interior is painted marinara red and decorated with black-and-white photos of the Rat Pack. Empty double magnums of Chianti line a wall that separates the dining room and bar area. Twinkle lights are strung around the windows, and a large chalkboard lists daily specials. Sinatra plays softly in the background.

Like everything served at Liliana’s, starters are generous. Ethereal wisps of fried spinach top the fried calamari. Crispy-skinned chicken wings are coated in a blanket of shaved Parmesan and served with aioli. Bruschetta are laden with goat cheese and bacon and balanced with arugula, roasted red peppers, and balsamic. 

Pastas are old-school classics: meat or eggplant lasagna, cannelloni, beef ravioli. The garlic shrimp rigatoni with roasted red peppers, fried spinach, tender shrimp, and a light cream sauce is particularly noteworthy. The meat-laden sauce on the enormously portioned spaghetti and meatballs adds a satisfying texture and a surprising amount of flavor.

Read full St. Louis Magazine Review