Many were puzzled by restaurateur Mike Randolph's announcement that he'd be transforming The Good Pie into a more expansive Italian restaurant called Randolfi's Italian Kitchen. As his Latin-focused Público garners rave reviews, though, we couldn't wait to see what Randolph and his new chef de cuisine Russ Bodner had up their sleeves.

The Good Pie's Neapolitan pizzas will still be on the menu, plus Southern Italian pastas like gnocchi and housemade spaghetti alla chitarra, creamy burrata, porchetta with polenta and more.

The maccheroni alla mugaia is an example of Randolph's inventive dishes that still nod to his Italian heritage. It's a hand-pulled, single strand of pasta made with pizza flour and banana peppers, chiles and basil blossoms from the restaurant's indoor garden. 

"It's got this dumpling characteristic to it  [Italians] traditionally serve it during festivals in the summer to celebrate the harvest of chiles, so we do that here. These are all local chiles," Randolph explains. "The best plan of attack is to cut of a piece and have at it, because if you try to do the old noodle-in-the-air thing you're going to need a go-go-gadget arm."

Another dish, the Beddu Salami, utilizes St. Louis' own Salume Beddu atop a bed of sweet roasted corn puree and housemade spaghetti. 

"We realized you can't swing a dead cat in St. Louis without hitting an Italian restaurant," Randolph jokes, "so we're finding clever ways of being unique. This is a really local dish – spaghetti chitarra, we just made it five minutes ago, with a ragu of Salume Beddu salami. We like the interplay of the spiciness and the robust flavor of the salami with the sweetness of the corn."

Longtime Randolph collaborator Jeffrey Moll, Jr. is of course behind the bar, and has created a menu of five classic Italian cocktails and five of his own inventions. Just as Público's cocktail list utilizes mezcals, tequilas and rums, Randolfi's features Italian vermouth, liqueurs, bitters, aperitifs and digestifs, though Moll rarely uses them as the base spirit. His cocktail lists can be a bit intimidating, so he's added a small glossary explaining key terms (genever, amaro, Fernet) and a scale to help drinkers judge how bold a cocktail will be. 

"Some of these are recycled drinks [from previous lists], just because I think they're well-suited for everything moving forward. It's always been in my interest, when I create a new list, to keep a small handful of drinks that did well on the last list to bridge the gap between seasons," Moll says. "Every list is very seasonal, and everything's kind of themed around Italian spirits, which is a bit of an undertaking."

Moll aims for everyone to find something they like on his cocktail list; there is a range of light and heavy, bitter and sweet. He's even developing a few non-alcoholic cocktails, like a gin martini with water and infused juniper, pine-flavoring, cucumber and rosewater for the gin, and white grape juice steeped with a bittering agent like wormwood for the dry vermouth. 

His advice for someone perusing his list? "Always order the weirdest thing on the menu. Don't be afraid to order a vermouth or try an amaro."

To finish up your meal, an irresistible dessert is the chocolate "salami" – not an Italian classic, but delicious nonetheless. The "salami" is made with chocolate ganache and hazelnut cookie dough with a tart cherry concentrate and whipped ricotta. 

Randolfi's Italian Kitchen will be open beginning August 25, Tuesday through Sunday from 5 to 10pm. 

Randolfi's Italian Kitchen, 6665 Delmar Blvd, Ste. 100B, University City, Missouri, 314.899.9221, randolfis.com