I first reviewed Vicia in the summer of 2017, the ideal time to experience Michael Gallina’s seasonal, vegetable-focused cooking. I rhapsodized over grilled nectarines with prosciutto and pickled watermelon rind, a white paprika pepper stuffed with black beans and charred-vegetable mole, chicken and shiitake mushrooms in a smoked corn-cob broth. Vicia was the obvious choice for St. Louis’ best new restaurant of 2017. It also made the national best-new-restaurant lists from Eater and Esquire. In 2018, Food & Wine named Gallina one of its “Best New Chefs,” and Vicia debuted on the STL 100 at No. 3. I returned to Vicia for this year’s STL 100 on a cold January evening. I didn’t expect Gallina and his team to recapture summer’s glory. Instead, they showcased a more subtle magic. A riff on spaghetti carbonara with rutabaga as the noodles, crumbled charcuterie and an amber egg yolk. Falafel made from the pulp of fruits that had already been juiced for other uses. These dishes were comforting, even heartening, but remained true to Vicia’s ethos. The food at Vicia is exceptional. The mission that Gallina, his wife, Tara, and their team have set for the restaurant — not merely celebrating local produce but changing how we view its role on the plate, challenging us to see cabbage as the star and meat as the accent — is essential. That alone might have elevated Vicia to No. 1. What put it over the top is its versatility as a dining experience. Yes, you can order the $85 tasting menu or otherwise spend a great deal of money here on food and wine. But you can also share several courses family-style for a more reasonably priced experience, and at lunch you can enjoy a much more casual version of Vicia’s excellence starting at $12. Vicia is the best restaurant in St. Louis now, and the Gallinas are pointing us toward a different but no less delicious future.
Hours: Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday (limited happy hour menu between lunch and dinner, closed Sunday-Monday)
Last year's ranking: No. 3