Owners of a new restaurant in Nashville want customers to feel like they’re in a big city, not a town of 3,200 people.
Frank Bartolotta and his wife, Filippa “Alessandra” Tullio, opened Frankie’s on the Hill last month.
“There was something missing in Nashville,” said Alessandra, 35. “We had pizzerias, fast food, Mexican and Chinese, but there was no fine dining.”
The couple hired longtime St. Louis chef Dave Pullam, who puts his own twist on steaks, seafood, chicken, veal and pasta.
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Candace and Kenneth Doelling, of rural Addieville, stopped by the restaurant on a recent Thursday night to celebrate her birthday.
“I had heard that (the food) was very, very good,” she said. “We just hadn’t had an opportunity to take advantage of it until tonight.”
Candace ordered charbroiled scallops, and Kenneth went with the chef’s special, sea bass.
“It was excellent,” Candice said. “The (flash-fried) spinach was awesome. I’ve never had anything like it.”
Frank is an Italian immigrant who has been operating Girolamo’s Pizzeria in Nashville for 28 years, starting at age 17. He has a second location in Mount Vernon.
Frank met Alessandra in 1999 while visiting relatives in Sicily. She was working as an accountant.
“When I moved here, I did not speak a word of English,” said Alessandra, who now has three children, Vita, 9, Marcus, 8, and Frankie, 1.
It was Frank’s idea to open a third restaurant, which is named after the baby, even though the family already had a busy lifestyle.
“I support all his ideas, so I’m fine with it,” Alessandra said. “I think he’s crazy, but that’s why I like him.”
“The Hill” refers to Frankie’s location on a high point in Nashville, not the Italian neighborhood of St. Louis.
The couple renovated a downtown storefront and hired a St. Louis interior decorator. They refinished hardwood floors, installed a reproduction tin ceiling and built a custom bar.
“I’ve been eating Chef Dave’s food for a year,” said their contractor, Larry Oller, 55, of Addieville, who still hangs out in the kitchen. “It’s tremendous. You can taste so many different things, the way he uses all the herbs and spices to trick it up.”
Larry particularly enjoys Dave’s filet mignon with sea clams and crab.
“It’s the best I’ve ever had, and I’ve traveled all over the United States doing construction,” he said. “It’s perfect. It’s top shelf.”
Dave, 58, started working in restaurants at 11. Galimberti’s on The Hill in St. Louis paid to send him to culinary school.
“I worked there until I was 28,” he said. “Then I started the kitchen at Zia’s, and I stayed there until 2000. I retired for three years, then I opened up my own place, Amici’s, in Kirkwood.”
Dave ran Amici’s for 12 years and retired again, but he couldn’t resist the Nashville opportunity.
“I still live in St. Louis,” he said. “I had to get rid of my Cadillac and get a little Chevy that gets 40 miles to the gallon.”
Dave loosely characterizes the food at Frankie’s as “American-Italian.” Frank makes bread every morning, and Dave whips up herb butter for steaks and a variety of sauces.
Scallops may come with brandy sauce one night and Frangelico citrus the next. The Veal Tutto Mare also has been popular.
“It’s charbroiled and dusted with Italian bread crumbs,” Dave said. “And it’s topped with a white wine lime sauce that has has shrimp and crab meat, scallions, red onions and mushrooms.”
Frankies serves flavored martinis and a signature drink called “The Frankie,” with Frangelico, Bailey’s, Amaretto, Kahlua, half-and-half and housemade whipped cream. The glass is rimmed with cocoa.
The restaurant is open for dinner Tuesdays through Sundays and Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“It’s so nice to have such a great place in this area,” Oller said. “We go to (fine St. Louis restaurants), but you drive an hour and sometimes you wait an hour. This is eight minutes from home.”
At a glance
What: Frankie’s on the Hill
Where: 171 W. St. Louis St. in Nashville
Hours: 4 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 4 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 4 to 8 p.m. Sundays, plus Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Seating: About 50
On the menu
Charbroiled Scallops — Scallops in a housemade sauce ranging from brandy to Frangelico citrus, served with a house salad and side (baked potato, vegetable or pasta), $25
Cappelini Melissa — Cappelini in a light tomato-basil sauce with grilled chicken, fresh asparagus, carrots, red peppers and Portabello mushrooms, served with salad, $24
Chicken Spiedini — Boneless chicken breast, prosciutto, plum tomato, spinach and mozzarella, rolled in Italian bread crumbs and charbroiled, served with salad and side, $22
Veal Tutamarie — Thinly sliced veal dusted with Italian bread crumbs and charbroiled with cheese, shrimp, crab, red and green onions and mushrooms in a white wine lime butter sauce, served with salad and side, $28
Filet Mignon — Choice-cut, 8-ounce filet, charbroiled and topped with housemade herb butter, with a salad and side, $32