What would possess a man to leave his brothers and the security of a successful, family-run restaurant in the city to branch out and start anew?
For Giovanni LaFata, it was the chance to share his passion for the restaurant business and work with an incredible staff in the place he calls home: Chesterfield Valley. “I grew up in Chesterfield. I went to Parkway Cen-tral. I disappeared from Chesterfield for about 15 years and experienced the city life, and now we’re back,” said LaFata, who in October opened Vito’s in the Valley in Chesterfield Towne Centre. He credits his mother, Caterina Maltese, and Executive Chef Gianfranco Munna for inspiring him to bring Vito’s to the Valley.“(They) showed me this location, and I was immediately willing to just run from Midtown and leave (Vito’s) in the great hands of my brothers, Marco and Vito,” LaFata said.
LaFata also credits his mother for teaching him every-thing he knows about the restaurant business. “She’s always been an angel in my ear,” he said. “She taught me about patience and talking to people in a certain way and having a respectful restaurant; that if you have good food, hopefully great food, great service, it really reflects.”LaFata’s mother and Munna designed the menu, bringing some offerings from Vito’s in Midtown, while making some changes LaFata described as “not better, but different.” From sandwiches to fresh risotto specials, seafood, steaks and desserts, dishes are treated with culinary respect, showcasing fresh ingredients and a strong Sicilian flair. “Sicilian has a little bit more sweetness to it,” LaFata explained.Vito’s also features Sicilian and Italian wines, local draft and bottled beers and cocktails suited for every palette and dish.For starters, Vito’s arancinis (deep-fried risotto balls) and calamari are tried-and-true favorites.
“We bread our calamari fresh in a really light breading, so it’s really crispy,” said LaFata, who promises customers will never be served a plate of pre-frozen calamari. “I’d put dollar for dollar up to anybody that I have the small-est freezer space in St. Louis. We bring everything in fresh – that’s just the way we wanted to do it here,” LaFata said.That includes fresh oysters for Friday and Saturday night’s oyster bar, where presentation and deliciousness go hand-in-hand.Pizza comes two ways: Sicilian and original-style. “Our Sicilian pizzas are just unbelievable,” said LaFata. “They’re baked in extra-virgin olive oil and take about 40 minutes. They’re the real deal.”
Vito’s’ original-style pizzas are hand-tossed and famous. “My dad started making pizzas in the late ‘60s at Gas-light Square, and we’ve been using the same dough recipe, the same 100 percent mozzarella cheese, the same sauce,” LaFata said. “The year I was born, my dad was featured on ‘Regis and Kathy Lee.’ For a long time, my dad was the talk of the town, and my dad’s pizza skills are what made us what we are today, as far as pizza goes.”LaFata credits his wife, Jessica LaFata, for creating Vito’s’ modern Italian atmosphere. With the bar, dining room and patios, Vito’s can host 140-180 guests for events. Catering is available as well.
For LaFata, Vito’s in the Valley is much more than a restaurant; it is the place he is excited to call home. “I’m just so happy and proud to be part of the Valley – to be part of the community that has been so welcoming,” he said. “It’s like I’ve done a full circle. ”
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