esca in the delmar maker district photo by michelle volansky

Esca in Delmar Maker District is one of the most exciting restaurant openings in St. Louis

No new restaurant opening this year has nailed concept, design, service and menu execution so completely as Esca. The restaurant is the latest from Bengelina Hospitality Group owner Ben Poremba, aided very capably by general manager Jonathan L’Helaouet and beverage director Luciano Racca. The cocktail menu from Noah Davidson presents exciting renditions of classics: the almond Old-Fashioned; a clay pot Negroni; milk punch scented with banana liqueur; and a basil gimlet that tastes like peak summer.

Most of the food is prepared over live fire, which demands a certain degree of expertise and control on the part of the cooks. Each dish carries a smoky kiss, but the food never feels too weighty. The menu is filled with gems, like the green salad with impossibly fresh, juicy and crunchy lettuce. There are crowd-pleasing starters like stracciatella with roasted grapes and grilled bread, or the cervelle de canut (onion dip with chive oil and crudites); both are beautifully presented. As for entrees, a recent version of the ever-changing lasagna came with a creamy mushroom sauce and a hint of truffle. The lasagna’s many layers of thin pasta sheets weren’t overwhelmed by sauce, resulting in a dish that was rich in flavor yet not at all heavy.

Don’t skip dessert, which is wheeled out on a cart by a server ringing a bell. Our favorites are the brioche with whipped cream and the vegan vanilla gelato which is finished tableside with olive oil, sea salt and tahini.

5095 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, 314.365.2686,