The name is pronounced “CHEE-nee,” short for arancini, the Italian rice balls staring here as an appetizer. Cini's concept and design is similar to Chipotle but with an Italian twist. Decor is sparse, industrial, trendy and a perfect fit for students at nearby St. Louis University.
Here’s how to order. Pick pasta, salad or piadina (a thin dough that works like a wrap) entree. Then fill (or top) it with meatballs, steak or calamari; sauces like creamy Alfredo and spicy diavolo; and additional ingredients such as spinach, mushrooms and black olives. We tried the pasta bowl with meatballs and a garlic basil sauce ($6.95). Everything was lukewarm, probably because we showed late in the evening when items had been sitting out for a while. Other than the temperature issue, though, the dish was flavorful, filling and affordable. We also sampled a trio of arancini as an appetizer ($2.45). Each one was supposedly a different flavor, but they all just tasted like cheesy rice balls to us, which isn’t really grounds for complaining. The dessert cinis ($2.45 for three) are filled with sweet rice and Nutella and topped with Oreo or vanilla wafer crumbs. Yum!
This isn’t the place to go for a fancy night out (although they do serve wine on tap), but it’s a great destination for a quick bite or a casual college date.