When the restaurant at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows decided to add a limited German dinner menu, it took a concentrated effort to come up with just the right lineup.
“We wanted specific, homemade, authentic German food — traditional favorites that we put a twist on and could call our own,” said Paulo Pecheco, general manager of the Shrine. He smiled, remembering how he, Guest Services Manager Chris Diel and several chefs collaborated to produce two appetizers, four entrees and a pair of desserts.
“We started in June/July and made every one of the dishes. Then we’d go back and do it again when something wasn’t just right,” Paulo said. “We ate a lot of German food!”
They had to pay attention to detail, said he and Executive Chef Todd Piasecki. For example, sourcing food locally led them to choose Wenneman’s Meats in St. Libory for the sausage.
“With the stuffed cabbage, we added caraway seeds and sausage,” explained Todd of taking a classic German entree and tweaking it.
“And we used Napa cabbage,” added Paulo. “It’s thinner and easier to eat, more tender.”
The Cabbage Rolls ($12.95) are stuffed with ground beef, rice, carrots and red onion, topped with a red gravy and served with smashed potatoes. (All the entrees at the restaurant are served with a house salad or cup of homemade soup.)
But that change-up wasn’t nearly as interesting as one of the appetizers: Bratwurst Bruschetta. It is sauerkraut, beer-braised bratwurst, horseradish, farmer cheese and fire-roasted red pepper served on a garlic crostini with stone-ground mustard aioli for $6.25.
“You won’t see that anywhere else,” said Todd.
If you want something closer to traditional, try the other starter, German Potato Pancakes for $5.95. They’re served with applesauce and garnished with sour cream and green onions.
Other entrees include Sauerbraten ($13.95), the top seller, Chicken Schnitzel ($11.95) and Pork Schnitzel Duet ($12.95), a breaded pork tenderloin served with homemade hunter and mushroom cream sauces and served with pan-seared Brussels sprouts and house-made spaetzle. Plus, there’s a daily special, such as Bavarian Rib-Eye Steak.
The two desserts were easy to choose: German Chocolate Cake and Black Forest Cake, each four layers and $5.50.
A German riesling wine and German beer on tap have been added to the bar choices.
Deciding to create such a menu was an easy choice, given the deep German roots of the community, said Paulo. While this is considered a limited menu, it’s possible that some of the items will be added to the regular dinner menu. Also, the German menu will be included during the Way of Lights.
You can still order all the Shrine favorites from the regular menu, including the secret-recipe fried chicken ($9.25 to $12.99), Mediterranean Tilapia ($10.25) and Mezzaluna Ravioli ($10.99).
The restaurant, which has been serving food to local diners and visitors from around the world since 1960, is reached through the visitors center. Tall windows look out on mature trees and, when the weather is warm, a covered veranda beckons diners.
Waiting for friends to join you for a meal? Take a stroll through the gift shop.
At a glance
- Our Lady of the Snows Shrine Restaurant
- Where: 442 S Demazenod Drive, Belleville (on Illinois 15 east of the Illinois 157 exit)
- What: Lunch soup-and-salad bar/sit-down menu; menu-only dinner; Sunday brunch; banquets.
- Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday; to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday with a 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday brunch buffet.
- Handicapped accessible: Yes
- Information: 618-394-6237 and see the full regular menu at www.snows.org