The term 'legend' is thrown about pretty freely around town in relation to restaurants. Sometimes, it seems like any place that's been open a few years and has halfway decent food is granted legendary status. But there are a small number of places that truly deserve the title—and Tony's is at the top of that list. For more than 40 years, this venerable Italian eatery has been the epitome of fine dining in St. Louis, and our recent evening at Tony's was proof that the restaurant is still worthy of the ‘L’ word.

Earlier this year, the restaurant updated some of the interior decor and accents, and also loosened some of its dress code for guests. For those who may have been concerned that these changes signaled some sort of dumbing-down process, you can rest easy. The interior mods, handled by SPACE Architecture + Design, are subtle, bringing some warmth and depth to the dining areas. And while there were several gentlemen dining sans neckties during our visit, Tony's dining rooms remain the pinnacle of taste and class.

With so many delicacies available on the menu, it can be a daunting task to decide on just what to order. Luckily, there's a Tasting Menu for Two ($180; $210 with wine pairing) that eliminates the guesswork and puts diners in the capable hands of Tony's staff. We began with an antipasto of smoked salmon wrapped around some mascarpone with a few capers on top to cut through the richness of the cheese. These were served along with some asparagus spears and Belgian endive, and perfectly primed our appetites for what was to follow. Next up was the pasta course, featuring tender penne pasta with lobster and shrimp. The richness of this dish was offset quite nicely with a crisp Italian Chardonnay from A. Lageder. While this dish was superb, the following course proved the pinnacle of the night's dining experience: a gorgeous tenderloin of beef, perfectly mid-rare, topped with a lightly seared foie gras and served with a dark port demi-glaze, creating layer upon layer of unctuous, rich flavors and textures. It was the absolute definition of culinary decadence, perfectly accented with a dark and complex Barolo from G. D. Vajra.

The cheese course was a nice, light segue from the big flavors we'd just experienced, and put us in the mood for dessert: chocolate cake with a dollop of house-made banana ice cream on the side, paired with a soft Vin Santo from Felsina that had subtle notes of stone fruit and a mild sweetness.

While the food was delicious, it truly was all elevated by the superb wine pairings. Requesting the tasting menu without the wine option would be akin to ordering only half a meal.

As always, service was superb and seemed effortless. Table-side preparations aren't something we see much of these days, and Tony's staff executes them flawlessly. Truly, the Tony's experience makes any occasion special. The legend continues.

-- 410 Market Street, 231-7007

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