Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 18
Bringing the best flavors of Italy to Mexico
by Heather Berry | email@example.com
ention Italian food to any Missourian and they'll most likely think of
The Hill, an Italian neighborhood in St. Louis with dozens of fantastic eateries. When you're in the mood for a delicious Italian meal but
live in a more rural part of the state, the options aren't so plentiful.
"There aren't any fine dining Italian restaurants within a 40-mile radius
of here," says Michelle Salazar, half of the husband-and-wife team who own
Hugo's Italian Ristorante. "I hate driving an hour and a half to get good food.
That's why we decided on Mexico."
Michelle and her husband, Hugo, met while working at an Italian fine dining
restaurant in Springfield. Their shared love for the cuisine and cooking got the
pair dreaming about what a restaurant might look like if they opened one.
Ten years later, their dream of opening an Italian restaurant was still alive.
The couple quit their jobs, took every cent they had and opened Hugo's in
December 2016. The minute you step into the charming restaurant, located
right off the square in downtown Mexico, the aroma of herbs and spices wafting
through the dining room tell you this is going to be simply "delicioso."
While some Italian eateries offer a seemingly endless menu, Hugo's prides
itself on having a relatively small selection with a wide variety of flavor profiles.
"I don't like it when a restaurant has a million choices on the menu," says
Michelle, noting so many choices often makes it difficult for kitchen and wait
staff to keep up. "Hugo and I wanted a smaller, more intimate menu selection
for our guests."
Michelle says both she and Hugo work every area of the business, but she
concedes Hugo is the magic in the kitchen. "He's like the rock star here. I'm
just the lady that makes sure everything else is OK for our guests," she says,
offering her trademark smile.
The menu only offers four appetizers, but the Consolidated Electric Cooperative members say they're all wildly popular with patrons.
One favorite is tender calamari rings, which are hand battered, flash fried
and served with fresh lemon and the house zesty marinara sauce. Another
popular starter is the fresh bruschetta. Lightly toasted crostini garlic bread is
topped with fresh tomatoes, a balsamic glaze, ball mozzarella, fresh sweet basil,
a blend of Italian herbs and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.
"Our portobello only exists because of a dream I had before we opened,"
Michelle says, noting the flash-fried mushroom cap is sliced and served with a
spicy Sriracha-Caesar sauce she dreamt up. "That sauce is heaven, I tell ya."
"Insalata" (salad) offerings include Insalata Caesar, ala Hugo, Caprese and
Verde. The Caesar is known for the delicious dressing, while the ala Hugo offers
mixed greens tossed with beets, goat cheese and candied walnuts with a balsamic vinaigrette. The Caprese is a typical Italian salad, comprised of fresh
ball mozzarella, Roma tomato slices, sweet basil, olive oil, Kalamata olives and
a balsamic glaze. The Verde includes mixed greens with marinated artichoke
RURAL MISSOURI | DECEMBER 2017
hearts, tomatoes and shredded Parmesan with a balsamic vinaigrette.
"Zuppa" (soups) are made fresh daily, and Michelle says their Italian Wedding Soup - a mixture of pearl pasta, chicken meatballs and fresh spinach -
is so popular they always sell out.
When you ask what the most popular entrees are at Hugo's Italian Ristorante, Michelle says people love it all.
"Hugo and I have had most of these recipes in our heads for years," Michelle
says. "Most of the really good recipes come from us simply playing with flavors
and recipes in the kitchen."
For those wanting to stick a little closer to an Italian option they may already
know, try the Lasagna Classica. Lasagna noodles and a signature meat sauce
made with Italian sausage are served with a house-made tomato cream sauce.
Or try the Fettuccine Alfredo: al dente pasta tossed with grilled chicken, garlic,
fresh broccoli and finished with Hugo's Alfredo sauce.
Spaghetti and Meatballs with marinara is another classic favorite. "We make
the meatballs daily and they're huge," Michelle says, quickly adding, "They're
fantastic. It's like Italy in a bite."
Other hearty options include Rigatoni ala Hugo, a pasta tossed with fresh
shrimp, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes in a pesto cream sauce and finished
with toasted almonds and fresh goat cheese, as is the Tortellini ala Prosciutto.
Cheese-stuffed tortellini is tossed with fresh peas, mushrooms and crispy prosciutto ham, and finished with the hearty Alfredo. Another rich choice is the
Shrimp & Scallop Ravioli, topped with Hugo's vodka tomato cream sauce.
Michelle says many people think an Italian restaurant wouldn't know how to
prepare a steak, but Hugo's has figured it out, offering four hand-cut options
which have been dry aged for 30 days and are prepared in a cast-iron skillet.
If you enjoy an adult beverage with your meal, Hugo's offers a full bar and an
extensive wine and craft beer selection. "And the extensive list is due to extensive sampling," says Michelle, smiling. "We love helping people pair a good wine
with their meal."
Come hungry to Hugo's or you'll end up like many people who take a to-go
box with them, as portions are hearty.
That said, you might want to go ahead and ask for a to-go box when you
order - that way you can save room for one of the signature gourmet-quality
desserts they make. Options include Fondante, a flourless chocolate cake with
a chocolate ganache molten center; Italian Tiramisu, with espresso-soaked lady
finger cakes layered with mascarpone cheese and topped with shaved chocolate
and cocoa, and Michelle's favorite, the Creme Brulee, a caramelized vanilla
bean custard served with fresh seasonal berries.
While delicious food is important, Hugo and Michelle find another thing just
"Service is near and dear to my heart," says Michelle. "We do everything in
our power to bend over backwards for our guests. Great service is a philosophy
here and it's not something we'll ever lose touch with."
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - December 2017
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - Intro
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - Contents
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