scallops photo by meera nagarajan

First Look: Osteria Forto in O'Fallon, Missouri

Dominic and Liz Pietoso, co-owners at the newly opened Osteria Forto at 2509 Hwy. K in O’Fallon, Missouri, have been planning on opening this restaurant for the past seven years.

They used to run a Cecil Whittaker’s pizzeria in Creve Coeur together and on Wednesday nights would host “osteria night,” which was essentially a pop-up concept. “We would do the osteria night because that’s what we really wanted to do, we would do our dream menu and we would have 80-plus people on a Wednesday night, and we had rave reviews, but Covid happened and brought that to a stop,” Dominic said.

Not only was the pop-up a good experience for them to learn the ins and outs of operating a restaurant like Osteria Forto, but it also allowed them to test recipes and see what people really loved.

Some dishes are carried over from the success of their Wednesday nights, including the Linguine Mare e Monti, a pasta with fresh clams, shrimp, tomato and mushroom tossed in a sauce made with olive oil, garlic, white wine and seafood stock. Another favorite was the Linguine Vongole Rosso, another seafood-focused pasta dish with fresh clams in the shell, chopped clams, seafood stock and a white wine-tomato sauce.

Other pasta dishes have already reached popular status like their top-selling Rigatoni Cardinale with lobster, shrimp, scallops and a creamy tomato sauce. They also place an emphasis on quality ingredients. “Our pomodoro is made with fresh cherry tomatoes from Tony’s [Family] Farms that we get local. We slice them in half and then sauteed and mesh them down and make a fresh tomato sauce to order every time,” Dominic said.

Dominic’s father, Fortunato Pietoso is the chef; both he and Dominic used to work at Café Napoli for years, where chef Pietoso was one of the original owners.

“He loves our sea scallops. This current preparation he decided to add shiitake mushroom to add earthiness and sun-dried tomatoes. Every time he makes them he calls me over to look at them like, ‘Look at this scallop right here!’ They’re pan-seared – it’s absolutely delicious,” Dominic said.

On the beverage side, look for a wine list with a focus on Italian and domestic wines. On the cocktail side, Dominic and Liz Pietoso collaborated and included a few classics with a twist like their Ginger Old-Fashioned or their Rosen Negroni, along with several cocktails with egg white foam. “We are big fans of egg whites in cocktails; I love adding texture to things, it adds layers and depth,” she said.

Drinks like the Empress Fizz with gin, simple syrup, lemon juice and egg white foam and the Bourbon Millionaire, which starts with an absinthe rinse, and the drink is made with Buffalo Trace, Grand Marnier, housemade grenadine, egg white foam topped with a fresh dusting of nutmeg.

Desserts are Liz’s domain, including Tre Amici Chocolate Cake with layers of chocolate cake, peanut butter buttercream, chocolate ganache and salted caramel sauce. Look for their panna cotta, which will change with the seasons, right now they have a cinnamon-infused version served with apples that are first macerated in honey and spices and then caramelized; during peach season, look for a peaches and cream version.

The space had a complete renovation with gray walls and blue booths and dark wood accents. The dining room seats 68 with 15 seats at the bar. When the warmer weather hits, their street facing side patio will seat 40. Osteria Forto opens at 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, closing at 9 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday and at 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.