There are food tours and then there is Eat Saint Louis Food Tours in Missouri. With Eat Saint Louis, not only do you get to sample a variety of food, but you also learn the history, personal stories, nuances and tips that make St. Louis’ food scene distinctive. And because the food tour takes place in the well-known “The Hill” district, it also includes tours of architecture, gardens, and sculptures, and, perhaps best of all, meeting real people – restaurateurs and shop keeps as well as residents.
Eat Saint Louis Food Tours is owned by Pete Manzo, first generation emigrant from Italy and the youngest of four kids. He comes by his knowledge of Saint Louis’ food history honestly. Starting in the 1950’s, Pete’s family’s food distribution business served many of St. Louis’s Italian restaurants while their specialty food market offered Italian and Middle-Eastern foods to the general public. Eventually, he took over the family business, but he decided to do something different that combined food, travel and his love of and loyalty for the neighborhoods he lives and works in.
One of the tours Pete offers is “The Taste of the Hill.” The area is the third most-visited attraction in the city, easily identified by banner signage and red, white and green painted fire hydrants. That, and an abundance of Italian restaurants and stores make it distinctive. The walking tour stops at six mom ‘n pop businesses where you meet the owners and enjoy enough food to make a hearty lunch. Between stops, you walk off what you just ate!
On the tour, you’ll learn what “Saint Louis Style Pizza” means. (It features a slightly soft, cracker-like crust, mildly sweet tomato sauce and Provel, a processed cheese blend that combines cheddar, Swiss and provolone for something creamy, tangy and very distinctive, all spread nearly to the very edge of the crust.)
You’ll also visit a Salumeria that has been making cured Italian meats since the 1900’s. Large prosciutto bones lie in a basket, shrink-wrapped, waiting to be thrown into pots of simmering pasta sauce. At an Italian grocer, you’ll see various Italian goods, sample a traditional sandwich, and hear the story of how the shop-owner’s father made bleach in his bathtub and offered large bottles of it free to housewives with every purchase as a way to compete with bigger grocers. You’ll stop into a chic gelateria and sample luscious flavors made from natural and imported ingredients like Peach Mango.
Along the way, there are rows and rows of long, narrow houses, blooming shrubbery, and yard ornaments. And residents watering their lawns and smiling their greetings to passing tour groups.
To take an Eat Saint Louis Food Tour is to discover so much about the St. Louis – its people, its tales, its trials and triumphs and the traditional foods that, over time, became what is iconic and, yes, delicious about this fascinating city.–by Courtney Drake-McDonough, RFT Contributor
Schedule your EAT Saint Louis Food Tours at www.saintlouisfoodtours.com or call 1-800-656-0713.