Rarely a week goes by without someone telling Rich Tallerico a story or joke about his place between Edwardsville and Wood River.
Years ago, it housed a bar that stayed open later than any of the drinking establishments in town.
"I've heard it all," said Rich, who owned Four Flags Motors for 37 years before he and his wife, Lucy, opened Lucy 'n Ricardo's restaurant in October.
Old-timers barely recognize the interior of the white-sided building with black shutters and a fenced-in patio.
The Tallericos did extensive remodeling, painting the walls honey gold, sage green and berry red and installing new furniture and fixtures.
Many of their recipes come from Rich's Italian family or Lucy's Mexican family.
"We've been cooking for years," Rich said. "We had barbecues for our employees at the dealership. We have people over to our house. (Lucy) could cook for 100."
But the restaurant is mainly Rich's baby. Lucy works as a school speech pathologist in Fairmont City during the week.
In addition to Italian and Mexican entrees, the menu lists appetizers, sandwiches, soups, salads and desserts such as cannoli and cinnamon sugar-coated, fried tortillas.
Rich describes the food as fresh, high quality and homemade.
"We're far from fast food," he said. "If you're in a hurry, don't come here. We want you to sit and enjoy yourself. Everything is cooked to order. There's no leftovers, no microwaving."
The general manager is Lucy's brother, C.J. Quintanilla.
He has seen the emergence of a few customer favorites, ranging from Italian beef to tamales and chimichangas.
"I love the tamales," said Donna Docter, 64, Rich and Lucy's neighbor, who has become a regular. "They're handmade and wrapped in corn husks. They're so good."
Another regular is Carol Stoltze, 60 of Glen Carbon. She and her husband, Mark, have eaten at the restaurant about 25 times in three months.
Carol is partial to the lemon chicken and Italian beef while her husband orders sandwiches or lasagna.
"I like the atmosphere," Carol said. "It's very friendly. Someone greets you when you walk in, and Rich kind of moves around, talking to people and making sure everything is perfect, and that just doesn't happen anymore."
The restaurant has daily specials and a full bar, including a "nice assortment" of wine, 10 beers on draft and another 25 in bottles.
A refrigerated case chills Mexican soda made with sugar cane and even non-alcoholic sangria for teetotalers.
One thing that hasn't changed is that trains still run on the nearby viaduct over Edwardsville Road.
"If you stay here long enough," C.J. said, "you can hear the train whistle."
At a glance
What: Lucy and Ricardo's Mexican and Italian restaurant
Where: 3624 Edwardsville Road in Edwardsville
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
Seating: 120 in main dining room and 35 in party room
Full bar: Yes
Information: Call 618-656-0707 or visit the Facebook page
On the menu
Lemon Chicken -- Pan-seared chicken breast with Italian herbs in a lemon sauce, served with steamed vegetables or roasted potatoes and garlic bread, $13.95
Tamales -- Three pork tamales, wrapped in corn husks, steamed, topped with spicy sauce and queso fresco and served with rice, beans, pico de gallo and sour cream, $10.95
Lasagna -- Lasagna made fresh daily with three-cheese blend and marinara sauce, topped with cheese and served with steamed vegetables or roasted potatoes and garlic bread, $12.95
Chimichanga Grande -- Giant flour tortilla filled with refried beans, rice and beer or pork, then fried golden brown, smothered in spicy sauce and queso loco and served with rice, beans, pico de gallo and sour cream, $10.95