The version of toasted ravioli at Ledo’s chain restaurants is filled with hot peppers and cheese instead of meat, but it’s in an attractive fried shell.
“Toasted ravioli (meat), deep-fried Twinkies,” read the terribly succinct response to our open call for hard-to-find regional foodstuffs.
The request came from a former Hill staffer and CQ Roll Call colleague — one who seemingly lives and dies by whatever bubbles up to the surface of a Fry Daddy. But he was merely a proxy; the truly desperate soul was none other than Roll Call Copy Chief Sara Bondioli.
The Mizzou grad acquired a taste for the breaded pasta pockets during her time in the Show-Me State and has had a helluva time finding even a reasonable facsimile thereof in the District. Her hopes were temporarily raised when District of Pi took up residence at 910 F St. NW, only to have her hopes dashed by the fact that the Midwestern pizza joint does not traffic in t-ravs.
But the most frustrating thing has to be being teased by the budding crop of local restaurants who’ve embraced the deep-fried cheese ravioli concept yet appear reticent to take the next logical step and throw some seasoned flesh into the mix.
Even major retailers have failed her.
“You can buy it at almost any grocery store in St. Louis,” Bondioli said of the embarrassment of caloric riches available to native St. Louisans. “But I have had friends drive or fly bags of it to D.C. because they couldn’t find it out here anywhere.”
A Happy Accident
Like many guilty pleasures, pinpointing exactly who deserves the credit for first plunging stuffed ravioli into a bubbling fryer remains purely subjective.
“There are a lot of stories about the origin of t-ravs,” said former St. Louis Post-Dispatch Food Editor Judith Evans. “The location varies with the teller, but most say that they were ‘invented’ by accident when a cook dumped a batch of ravioli in the deep fryer.”
New York Times Dining Critic Patricia Brooks investigated the St. Louis staple in the late ’80s, serving up this analysis of the thick-skinned treat:
Strictly speaking, the ravioli is deep-fried, not toasted, and like many culinary discoveries, the first batch was the result of an accident. Surprisingly, everyone seems to credit the same source. The first toasted ravioli seems to have been made in the 1950’s at a restaurant called Angelo Oldani’s on the Hill, the Italian neighborhood where both Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola grew up.