Photo by Roberto Rodriguez



Gerard Craft will test his appeal outside St. Louis this year when he opens a location of Pastaria in Nashville, Tenn. Pastaria is the obvious choice for expansion into a booming market. Of Craft’s four restaurants — not counting the new Porano Pasta, itself derived from Pastaria’s menu — it has proven the most approachable to diners of all ages without sacrificing the James Beard Award winner’s commitment to quality. Under the stewardship of rising-star executive chef Ashley Shelton, Pastaria is a model of casual-dining excellence, efficiently turning out terrific food to a consistently crowded dining room. Choosing a favorite dish from the loaded lineup of pastas (canestri cacio e pepe, pistachio ravioli) and wood-fired pizzas (the spicy Roman, the lardo-kissed Brussels sprouts) is difficult, but lately I’ve been drawn to the Salume Beddu Nduja pizza, which features spicy sausage from St. Louis’ pre-eminent charcuterie as well as tomato, fior di latte, garlic, oregano and honey.

Last year's ranking: 10

Opened: 2012

Must order: Salume Beddu Nduja pizza ($14.75)