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Our very good friend Sandy spent a few days with us last week.

On Tuesday night she took us out for dinner at Cunetto's. This is one of the many restaurants in the Italian part of St. Louis known at The Hill.

I hadn't been to this spot for years. It's very brightly decorated with Italian flags hanging off lamp posts and Italian colors painted on the fire hydrants.

The houses here are all small, mostly shoebox shaped, with minimal frontage. Built primarily for Italian immigrants coming to St. Louis around the end of the 19th century and into the beginnings of the 20th, they have a character and ambiance that is all their own. Pride in this neighborhood is very strong, as the decorations indicate.

The meal was huge – mounds of pasta most of which we had to take home. But it was good, and the restaurant was filled with families and groups of relaxed diners, a little surprising to me for a Tuesday night but you got the sense that this was a local hangout and much loved.

Afterwards, a walk around the neighborhood was essential and, despite the continuing intense heat that was not moderated by all these red brick homes, it made for a very pleasant diversion.