July 22, 2010

Avanti's in Pekin

By Eric Shangraw

July 22, 2010 Updated Jul 23, 2010 at 2:06 PM CDT

Avanti's opened a restaurant in Pekin in October of last year. It is the fifth and largest Avanti's location in the Peoria area. And it is a culinary wish fulfilled for residents in the southern slice of the Tri-County area.

"We had spaghetti with the meat sauce. It was very good. And we just love coming in here to Pekin to Avanti's. Pekin needed this," said customer Paula Gregory.

"We live in Hopedale. So we're excited," said customer Ron Gregory.

"It is one of the best things Pekin has done. It really is. Whenever I went to Avantis, I had to go to Peoria. And I couldn't wait for them to open this place," said customer Burma Bozarth.

Ten-thousand square feet of restaurant. The property was originally Donnelly's then Kelly Avenue Grille before the Zeller family bought it. They ripped out the old kitchen. Put it a new one. Renovated the dinning areas and added folding walls for large private parties.

"We also have the largest banquet facilities out of all the Avanti's restaurants. We can have one big room that seats about 200. Or we can split those rooms up into three smaller rooms. That can really accommodate a lot of business luncheons. Or any type of group or event," said owner/operator Stephan Zeller.

The Pekin restaurant has a full service bar. You'll find a couple of original drinks on the bar menu. The Avantini is a peach flavored vodka martini. Top shelf Absolute Vodka. Peach Schnapps. Sweet Vermouth. In a chilled glass.

The Italian Stallion is another original. Malibu rum. Peach Schnapps. Orange juice. Pineapple. A splash of Margarita mix. Lime juice. Sour mix with triple sec. Good in the bar or by the pool.

Looks like something you would have for breakfast. And it would be a short day!

In the kitchen, they're making brueschetta. Tomato, garlic, salt, fresh chopped basil and olive oil on slices of Avanti's bread. Followed with sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

Photographer Joe Bennett and I started with a half-carafe of house red wine, bread and salad. Before we reveal the rest of our order, it seems everyone here has a strong opinion about their favorite.

"I like their pizza and their lasagna. Make a good pizza. (Do you like the sweetness?) I think so. Very good pizza and lasagna," said customer Bob Collom.

"I had spaghetti with three, that many, meatballs," said customer Don Nelson.

"It is Italian. It is delicious," said customer Jan Pyatt.

Joe had the Chicken Cacciatore. Oven baked chicken breast served in a bed of pasta, topped with marinara sauce. Winner winner. Italian chicken dinner!

I had oven baked Cod. It is a fresh fish fillet rolled in flower and brushed with butter. Paprika sprinkled all about. A fine complement adjacent to a plate of fettuccine with clam sauce or spaghetti with marinara and meat sauce, which is what I had. The cod flaky, not overly fishy.

Avanti's offers an inexpensive but elegant dessert. Raspberry Swirl layer cake. Decorated with raspberry sauce. $1.45. Chocolate Fudge cakes with raspberry dribbles. $1.45. We feasted like a mob boss and a captain. But no need to for a shake down. Wine, salads, bread, two entrees, and two dessert, will cost you $29.87 plus tip. An Italian steal.

There are now five Peoria area Avanti's with more than 400 employees feeding on average 15,000 mouths a week. It is an impressive number of appetites which can't be wrong.

Avanti's in Pekin is on West Kelly Avenue. They're open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. Carry-out. Delivery. Full bar and banquet facilities. The Pekin restaurant is hosting its first wedding reception in August.

Avanti's Restaurant
3610 Kelly Avenue
Pekin, IL 61554
309-346-3400

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