Metro-East Living

'Awesome food': Italian family serves pizza and pasta in Red Bud

You’d be hard-pressed to find a business more family-oriented than DiCarlo’s Pizza and Pasta in Red Bud.

It’s run by Italian immigrants Angela and Francesco “Frank” DiCarlo and their three children, who practically live at the restaurant. They cook, serve, answer the phone, run the register and eat meals at a table near the counter.

It’s not unusual for 15-month-old grandson Francesco to be sitting in a booster seat or toddling around the dining room. A photo display documents his monthly growth.

“When he was a year old, he ate his first little bit of pizza,” said Angela, 55, of Red Bud.

Angela and Frank have been in business 30 years, opening in downtown Red Bud in 1985 and moving to a new brick building on the outskirts of town in 1998.

They have developed a strong following of loyal customers, such as Anita Toth, 46, of Waterloo.

“They are a lovely family, and they serve awesome food,” she said. “But I order the same thing every time. I get an Italian beef and cheese sandwich with extra cheese. I’d come here more often, but I have five kids, and they keep me busy.”

As the name implies, DiCarlo’s specializes in pizza and pasta, everything from lasagna, spaghetti and ravioli to cheese tortellini, fettuccine Alfredo and manicotti.

Frank is head chef, making pizza dough and pasta sauces from scratch. Angela serves as bookkeeper and manager.

Pizza comes thin, thick or deep dish.

“(The sauce) is sweet,” said daughter Anna, 30, a former schoolteacher. “Not real sweet, but it’s sweeter than what people are used to. And we don’t use imitation cheese. We get blocks of mozzarella cheese and shred it ourselves.”

Most dinners include a trip to the salad bar. The restaurant also serves sandwiches.

Frank and Angela’s other children are Carlo, 26, an aviation dispatcher, and Sabrina, 22, a business student at Lindenwood University.

“I do a little bit of everything (at the restaurant), whatever needs to be done,” said Sabrina, who also works at a local clothing boutique. “Here lately, I’ve been learning how to make pizza.”

Angela was 6 when her family emigrated to the United States and settled in South St. Louis. Her sister met Frank’s brother on a trip to Italy and later married him.

Angela and Frank met when he came to visit his brother. They spent time together again when she went to Italy.

“(My parents) asked, ‘Do you want to get engaged with him?’” Angela said. “And I said, ‘Sure, why not?’ I knew he came from a good family.”

Angela and Frank got married in 1983. They followed in the footsteps of relatives who operated restaurants, opening their own places in Lebanon and Hillsboro with limited success.

The couple began looking at Red Bud in 1985. Angela remembers driving around and stopping to chat with a man mowing his lawn.

“I said, ‘Would you like to have (an Italian restaurant) open up in this town?’” Angela recalled. “And he said, ‘Oh, we would love it.’”

Third time was a charm.

Today, the DiCarlos employ eight non-family members at the restaurant. They’re attracting young customers, in addition to those who have been breaking bread with them for decades.

Emily Reid, 22, of Chester, often stops by on her way home from classes at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville.

“I love pizza, pasta and salad, and they have the best around,” she said. “It’s very consistent. The flavor is good, and the service is always great. I usually get the (deluxe) pizza and cannelloni. It’s real good. I’ve never been let down.”