Customers' loyalty is key at Pecoraro's on U.S. 1

Italian-American food in a friendly atmosphere

Restaurant profile

January 24, 2002|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Pecoraro's offers authentic, but not too fancy, Italian cuisine. Although surrounded by U.S. 1's dated roadside motels, the restaurant, which opened in 1983, stands in stark contrast: safe and clean, suitable for families, wholesome atmosphere - and it offers food to match.

On any evening, a number of families can be found eating - or waiting to eat - in the restaurant.

"The restaurant business is really a people business," says Nick Pecoraro, the owner. "The loyalty of our customers over the 19 years has meant a lot to us."

Pecoraro describes the restaurant's menu as Italian-American. "When we opened, if someone wanted true authentic Italian cuisine, they'd go on down to Baltimore for it, so we had to find a menu that would appeal to everyone and keep them local. We think we've done that," he says.

Parmigiana, in varieties including eggplant, is on the menu, as are chicken, veal, filet mignon and shrimp.

You can also find chicken carbonara (fettuccini in a white cream sauce with chicken tenders), veal menure (breaded veal cutlets sauteed in garlic and wine with brown sauce), shrimp fra diavolo (shrimp marinara served hot and spicy) and pork chops Italian style.

Other Italian standards are available, such as lasagna, baked ziti, spinach cannelloni and manicotti. Also offered are cheese, vegetable or pesto ravioli; meat or cheese tortellini; and stuffed cheese or seafood shells. All are served with a choice of red or white sauce.

The menu notes that the pizza is made the "Jersey way" - good news for those who miss the thin-crusted pies from up north.

"My father's family came from New Jersey - landed originally on Ellis Island and then settled in Newark," says Pecoraro. "That's how I know how to make good New Jersey pizza."

If you're tagging along with a group of Italian food lovers but the cuisine isn't your thing, the menu offers "American Favorites." Try the crab cake sandwich, hamburger or turkey club sandwich. If you want something more substantial, the restaurant's dinner menu offers steak du jour, pork chops, a veal cutlet, fried shrimp and the crab cake platter (two Maryland-style crab cakes prepared "Nick's way").

Pecoraro emphasizes that his restaurant is inviting for families. With three kids - 7-year-old twins and a 1-year-old - he knows what kids like. A children's menu includes Italian favorites such as cheese ravioli, seashell pasta with a meatball or plain tomato sauce or spaghetti. If your child's response to anything but hamburgers or chicken tenders is "yuck," those are available.

Pecoraro is aware of the history of U.S. 1 and the history of the building that houses the restaurant, and he has high hopes for plans to revitalize U.S. 1. The original building was Linder's Lounge in the 1940s, when U.S. 1 was the main north-south road along the East Coast.

Pecoraro says the owner of Linder's catered to the upper crust in Elkridge, closing each afternoon to go to the Laurel racetrack and reopening at 5 p.m. The restaurant changed hands several times over the next few decades, each time descending in reputation, until Pecoraro bought it and opened his Italian restaurant.

"When I bought the place in the early '80s, it was a bar," Pecoraro says. "Since then, I've completely rebuilt around the original structure and then renovated inside. It's nothing like it was then."

Pecoraro's

Where: 6270 Washington Blvd., Elkridge; 410-796-7720.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday; closed Sundays.

Prices: $6.75 to $25

Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover

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