Michael Del Pietro is a big fan of small menus.
"We're trying to execute everything well instead of having a huge menu and not doing much of anything well," he said.
Michael, 45, of St. Louis, was sitting at a wooden table in his expansive new restaurant, Sugo's Spaghetteria in Edwardsville.
The menu is written on a 12-by-6-foot chalkboard, including three antipasti, three salads, nine pastas, five pizzas and three daily specials.
"This is an Italian restaurant, and we are serving traditional Italian food," Michael said, noting "sugo" means "sauce" in Italian.
"We don't have a freezer. We make everything in house. Our biggest complaint is that we might run out of something. We only make enough for that night so we can start fresh the next day."
On this afternoon, the three specials were Veal Parmigiano, Oven Roasted Tilapia and Chicken Spedini.
"The Spaghetti and Meatballs is a big seller," said manager Micah Hopkin, 30, of St. Louis. "People love it. The meatballs are the size of tennis balls. People also like the lasagna and pizza."
Michael grew up in the restaurant business. His grandfather, Roy Russo, opened the legendary St. Louis pizza parlor Rossino's in 1954.
Russo's daughter, Mary Rose, and her husband, the late Michael Sr., operated Del Pietro's House of Pasta in south St. Louis.
"My mother just retired last year," Michael said, ending the House of Pasta's 35-year run.
Today, Michael owns eight restaurants: Sugo's in Edwardsville, Frontenac, Mo., and Overland, Kan.; Babbo's Spaghetteria in Chesterfield and Columbia, Mo. (same menu as Sugo's); Tavolo V in University City, Mo. (vegetarian Italian); Via Vino Enoteca in Frontenac (wine bar); and Pazzo's Pizzeria in Kirkwood, Mo.
The Edwardsville Sugo's occupies a 4,000-square-foot space in a new shopping center, but it has an urban-warehouse feel with its high ceilings, exposed metal beams, two walls of windows, stained concrete floor and reclaimed wood accents.
"We're not fine dining, and we're not trying to be fine dining," Michael said.
The restaurant opened in October. On a recent weekday, Dave and Patty Lee stopped in for lunch with daughter Jacki Lee and sister-in-law Linda Biarkis.
"The food's delicious," said Dave, 57, of Edwardsville. "I've eaten at several places in Little Italy in New York, and obviously on The Hill, and I think this place is just as good as any of them."
Another regular, Terry Pierce, was sitting nearby with his friends, Jim Holland and Ruth Hayden.
"We like the service and the ambiance with all the windows, and my wife likes the music," said Terry, 64, of Granite City. "She likes Dino (Dean Martin) and Frankie (Frank Sinatra).
"And the food is wonderful. We like the salads, and I've fallen in love with the Tutto Mare. It's got enough seafood that you can actually see it. It comes out hot, and it's fresh, and it's nicely spiced. I don't like bland food."
At a glance
What: Sugo's Spaghetteria
Where: 243 Harvard Drive in Edwardsville (behind Buffalo Wild Wings)
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. Fridays, noon to 10 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 8 p.m. Sundays
Seating: About 150 people
Handicap accessible: Yes
Information: Call 618-659-4640 or visit www.mdprestaurants.com
On the menu
Pollo Alfredo -- Chicken, cream, roasted garlic and parmigiano cheese ($10)
Tutto Mare -- Shrimp, clams, crabmeat and shrimp broth ($14)
Sugo's Pizza -- Tomato sauce, sausage, hamburger, pepperoni and bacon ($11)
Bruschetta -- Garlic, tomatoes, fresh basil and parmigiano cheese ($4)
Field Greens -- Gorgonzola cheese, red onions and balsamic vinaigrette ($6)