Fazli and Luli Dullovi had nothing but the clothes on their backs in 1999, when their family escaped war-torn Kosovo and took refuge in the United States.
Today, the brothers own Fazzi’s Restaurant and Bar in Collinsville, which serves Greek, Italian and American food.
Their four sisters and the sisters’ husbands also work at the restaurant.
“That’s why you get the quality of the food,” said Fazli, 28, a father of four who lives St. Louis. “We cook the way we would cook for ourselves.”
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The brothers picked the name Fazzi’s because it’s similar to their names, but easier to pronounce and remember. In the past 10 years, they have built a loyal following of customers.
“It’s the best place,” said Rhonda Danheiser, 57, of Collinsville, who stopped in for lunch recently with her friend, LeeAnn Allen. “It’s a fine-dining restaurant with good food at reasonable prices. It’s local. You don’t have to drive, and they have ample parking. The service is great. The girls are all friendly. You can get takeout. They have it ready for you.”
Rhonda’s favorite dishes are Fried Shrimp, Charbroiled Ribeye Sandwich and Spinach Pie.
She also enjoys ordering a deep-fried cheese appetizer called Saganaki because of its presentation. It’s set on fire beside the table.
“We celebrate all our birthday parties here,” Rhonda said. “We’ve never had a bad meal.”
Fazli and Luli worked at several St. Louis restaurants before opening Fazzi’s in 2005.
They bought the brick building near Jack Schmidt’s car dealership on Vandalia on recommendation of Collinsville resident Harry Kumke. Harry was Fazli’s English teacher at Soldan International Studies High School in St. Louis. He was impressed when the teenager made him an Italian dish, Chicken Piccata, for his birthday.
“It was awesome, and I’m not even a pasta eater,” said Harry, 72. “It was absolutely fantastic. Everything at the restaurant is. The food is to die for.”
Harry also admires the family for their hard work and determination in the face of adversity. Fazli was only 18 when he opened the restaurant. He has since earned a master’s degree in math.
“He isn’t a bragger at all,” Harry said. “It’s a very modest family.”
The restaurant became a godsend in 2006, when Fazli and Luli’s father was killed in a car accident. It was a means for them to help support their five siblings.
Today, the menu is divided into Greek dishes such as Pastichio, Moussaka and Dolmades; Italian dishes such as Shrimp Linguine, Pasta Con Broccoli and Spaghetti and Meat Balls; and American dishes such as pork chops, New York strip steaks and burgers.
“The biggest seller is the Gyro Sandwich,” Fazli said. “There’s not a place that sells more gyros than us, not even in St. Louis.”
One of the restaurant’s regular customers is Norel Pride, 72, of Collinsville, who shows up almost every day. He often orders the Chicken Kabob lunch special for $6.99. It comes with rice pilaf and a Greek side salad with green peppers, mushrooms, red onions, feta cheese and housemade dressing.
“It’s cheaper for me to eat lunch here than it is at (a fast-food restaurant), and it’s much tastier,” Norel said. “It’s fresh. It’s different.
“I feel healthier. I feel better. And they treat me like family.”