The heavy, inviting scent of home-cooked, hearty Italian food greets guests upon entering Erio’s Ristorante in St. Peters where customers always are treated like family.
Co-owned by Pietro [Pete] Pulizzi and his wife, Joan, the small, family-owned restaurant is nestled into St. Peters Towne Center, 951 Jungermann Road. The 80-seat restaurant offers authentic Italian pastas from lasagna and linguine to spaghetti and mostaccioli to fettuccini and rigatoni.
Not in the mood for pasta? Check out one of the many chicken, steak or veal entrèes. Erio’s also is known for its famous hand-stretched pizza with made-from-scratch dough and topped with a choice of mozzarella or provel cheese.
Originally from Sicily, Pulizzi learned to cook from his mother. However, he said he has not quite mastered her unique style and flavor.
“I still can’t make [sauces] like her,” said Pulizzi. “She was one of a kind.”
Over the years, Pulizzi has experimented and developed his own recipes, which have served him well during his 46 years in the restaurant business.
“You start cooking and using different things and start experimenting and you learn as you go along,” said Pulizzi.
When he came to America, Pulizzi was working in construction during the day and moonlighting in the restaurant business in the evenings. After talking to one of his construction buddies, he decided to go full-time as a restauranteur and open his own restaurant. Erio’s opened its first location in Florissant in 1971. It relocated to its current St. Peters location in 1991.
While the restaurant has many tantalizing, mouth-watering dishes, the Linguine Tutto Mare is one of the most popular items on the menu, Pulizzi said. Made with fresh ocean clams, scallops and gulf shrimp served in a homemade seafood sauce with mushrooms, fresh tomatoes and garlic and then tossed with linguine noodles, the dish is a favorite for many, including Pulizzi.
Another seafood favorite, Erio’s offers fresh grouper daily and weekly specials.
But for customers who are not seafood lovers, Pulizzi recommends the Tortellini Alla Tricia, named after his daughter. The beef and chicken filled doughnut-shaped noodles are prepared in a delicious white cream sauce with peas, fresh mushrooms, prosciutto and fresh garlic.
Joan’s favorite meals at Erio’s includes the Sicilian pork chops, which are not on the menu but frequently are featured as a weekly special and Erio’s lasagna.
Pulizzi said the homemade, fresh tomato sauce sets his lasagna apart. He also incorporates a mixture of fresh Italian sausage and hamburger in the multi-layered classic dish.
“We use 100 percent whole milk mozzarella and ricotta cheese,” he said.
High quality and full-flavor ingredients set Erio’s apart from the competition whether they’re combined in sauces that are freshly made from scratch or singled out as in the certified Angus beef steaks.
“We make our white sauce with 40 percent cream and 100 percent parmesan cheese. A lot of restaurants use milk and flour in it, but we don’t do that,” Pulizzi said.
Erio’s also offers an extensive dessert menu guaranteed to tantalize any sweet tooth. Joan shares two of her own hand-crafted recipes for the menu. One is a New York-style cheesecake with a graham cracker crust and sour cream topping. The other is Murder by Chocolate Cake, which is a flourless fudge-like cake topped with whipped cream.
Dine-in or carry out for a generous serving of Italian goodness.
“We treat [customers] very nice,” Pulizzi said, “we want them to come back!”