Bites Nearby: de Lorenzo's Italian Restaurant
Traditional family recipes meet contemporary dining in this week's pick.
One look at me and people usually guess that I’m full-blooded Italian. While that’s only partially true about my heritage, it is 100 percent true about my stomach, which is why discovering a place like de Lorenzo’s Italian Restaurant is such a treat.
De Lorenzo’s is a medium-sized restaurant just down the road from the Town Centre plaza in Forks Township. The contemporary décor and full bar gives the impression of an upscale dining experience, but there’s nothing snooty about this place. In fact, de Lorenzo’s prides themselves on all the right things; family, quality, and authenticity.
For starters, their recipes for homemade pastas, sauces, seafood and meats have been handed down over several generations. The original recipes came from the current owner’s great-great-grandmother, who hailed straight from the mother country.
The restaurant is family-owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Cheryl and Gino Yannuzzelli, and Cheryl’s parents Marlene and Ernie de Lorenzo. Marlene de Lorenzo comes in during the days, before the restaurant opens for dinner, to make the authentic sauces, meats and pasta. If you come from an Italian family, you know that the right way to do things often takes a large portion of the day.
According to Cheryl Yannuzzelli, the most popular menu items are generally the more traditional dishes. Their lasagna and manicotti uses handmade pasta and real sauce. The Sunday Gravy is also very popular; a slow-cooked tomato sauce, braised for hours, with pork, meatballs, sausage and braciole (flank steak seasoned with herbs and pancetta).
A newer addition to the menu is their gourmet pizzas, which are grilled rather than baked. The spinach, goat cheese and bruschetta pizza is Yannuzzelli’s favorite.
Another unique de Lorenzo’s feature is that all of the desserts are original recipes, baked right in the restaurant. Most places opt to bring in their desserts from a specialty shop, but Marlene de Lorenzo makes them herself; ricotta cheesecake, cannolis, and cream puffs.
De Lorenzo’s opened in November of 2007. The de Lorenzo family originally hails from New Jersey, but a few years ago Cheryl and Gino Yannuzzelli moved to Palmer to raise their children. They noticed the lack of authentic Italian cuisine in the area and decided that with the help of the elder de Lorenzos, they would start a restaurant.
Marlene de Lorenzo has been cooking all her life, having learned from her mother. She spent years working with catering and banquet companies in New Jersey (her husband Ernie would bartend the events. He is now the bartender for de Lorenzo’s).
The Yannuzzellis recognized Marlene’s talents in the kitchen and asked themselves, “Why make money for other people, when she can do it for herself?” And de Lorenzo’s was born.
De Lorenzo’s is open from 4:00 to 9:00 pm Sunday through Thursday, and until 10:00 pm on Friday and Saturday. On Sundays, from 10:30 am to 2:00 pm, they hold Sunday brunch, during which they serve breakfast foods like fresh fruit and French toast, as well as light pastas, salads and soups.
Donates Night is an event in which a percentage of sales (10 to 20 percent) from the day’s profits go to an organization. De Lorenzo’s announces the organization for each Donates Night in the Express Times and on their website. Organizations are often schools, charities, and local associations. This past Monday, March 28, was an autism awareness charity.
“I like to give back to the community,” said Cheryl Yannuzzelli. “When the recession hit, we managed to stay in business because of people, so we like to say thank you.”
Live entertainment is on select Wednesday and Friday nights from 6:00 to 9:00 pm. See the website (www.delorenzosrestaurant.com) for their events calendar and upcoming Donates Nights. Cheryl Yannuzzelli also holds seasonal wine pairings when new menu items become available.
De Lorenzo’s, located at 1210 Knox Avenue in Forks Township, also offers off-site catering and private afternoon parties when the restaurant is not normally open. Stop by for dinner and try some authentic generational Italian cuisine.