The Invention Of Toasted Ravioli Was A Happy Accident

Toasted ravioli is a pasta dish like no other. More colloquially known as T-Ravs, this pasta's origin can be traced to The Hill, an Italian-American neighborhood in St. Louis. Preparing this dish involves breading and deep frying the ravioli, which is typically served with marinara sauce and a sprinkling of cheese. Calling it "fried ravioli" does sound much less classy, but that's essentially what it is. Today this dish can be found nationwide — there's even toasted ravioli at Trader Joe's — but it first came to be in that specific area of St. Louis.

To no fault of the people today, history is often fuzzy. Such is the origin of toasted ravioli, with multiple restaurants claiming the invention to be a happy accident in their kitchen. Restaurant Charlie Gitto's holds that a chef dropped a ravioli (we're guessing just one) into hot oil, but it turned out to be a tasty mistake. Similarly, Mama's on the Hill claims a whole order of ravioli was accidentally dropped into oil, but instead of throwing them out, they were served to people sitting at the bar and became a hit. These two restaurants both use the word "original" in their menus to describe their toasted ravioli — it seems like both are firmly standing their ground. A third restaurant, Lombardo's, does not have an accident-related story, but rather claims that its ravioli is "a third generation recipe."

How is toasted ravioli served?

Different sources and writers take the sides of different restaurants. One convincing opinion from Epicurious is that Mama's on the Hill was the first. This restaurant used to be known as Oldini's and a newspaper issue from 1943 features an ad for this restaurant's toasted ravioli. This would mean they have been serving toasted ravioli for at least 80 years. However, Tony Lombardo tells St. Louis Magazine that his restaurant was serving it in the 1930s, so it's tough to know for sure. Regardless, toasted ravioli has many fans, and it's a dish that pasta lovers might as well try if they ever come across it on a menu. Should they not, air fryer toasted ravioli is an easy way to make the dish at home.

In St. Louis, toasted ravioli is more traditionally meat-filled. Charlie Gitto's makes theirs with meat-stuffed ravioli and pomodoro sauce, while Mama's on the Hill serves lightly breaded cheese or meat ravioli with marinara. Lastly, Lombardo's presents oversized meat ravioli with marinara and Romano cheese. These simple ways of serving toasted ravioli prove that what people truly care about is sauce, cheese, pasta, and of course, that satisfying crunch.