Like all good Italian things, Salvatore’s Fresh Ristorante Italiano comes with a story and a glass of wine. Owners Jerry and Judy DeMoro only opened the place in July, but the tale of its origins reaches back generations.

Jerry DeMoro’s grandfather, Salvatore Jerome DeMoro, emigrated from Italy to small-town southern Illinois in the 1920s. He planted a vineyard, made wine and even sold his vintages to Al Capone. Twenty-five years ago, Jerry and Judy owned a pair of Mexican restaurants, but moved away from them in a career shift into manufacturing. It took a month-long Italian vacation to persuade the couple to take the restaurant plunge again, this time with a concept building on the DeMoro family heritage.

Many of the recipes at Salvatore’s – including the terrific pork-and-beef meatball made with fresh herbs – are DeMoro family recipes. Judy picked up the marinara recipe from her cooking class in Italy. The restaurant's name comes not only from Jerry's grandfather, but from his father, his son, his grandson and himself: His given first name is also Salvatore.

While the DeMoros brought back some of what they tasted overseas, like the arancini balls, they are not looking to replicate exactly what they tasted in Italy. Instead they make Italian-inspired food for the American palate – not Tuscan, not Neapolitan, but Italian-American. The Seafood Fettucine, for example, is composed of shrimp and scallops with a creamy lemon garlic sauce, but you will not find the clams, squid and mussels you would expect in Catania or Naples.

Salvatore’s proudly makes everything fresh. Come on in for lunch and at the front of the restaurant you are likely to see Jerry rolling dough for the bread or pulling homemade pasta out of the pasta maker they had shipped from Italy, while Judy skillfully glides between the oven, grill and range in the open kitchen. Some of the dishes take time, and no restaurant operates at full speed at the beginning, but Salvatore’s has the perfect solution to this little problem. The hot-from-the-oven bread (crunchy on the outside, heavenly soft and warm on the inside) will satisfy customers while they wait. A honey-and-fresh-herb butter is served with it, but the bread is the star.

The lunch menu is a pared-down offering of pastas, sandwiches and burgers, while the dinner menu is quite extensive and includes a tempting antipasta section, as well as salads, soups, pastas, sandwiches, paninis, burgers, pizzas, seafood plates and a steak. The two signature dishes are available for both lunch and dinner. The Creamy Chicken Pesto Rigatoni ($8.50 for lunch, $10.50 for dinner) stood out from most pesto dishes, and the fresh pasta and firm, rich, flavorful meatballs in the Spaghetti and Meatballs ($8.50 lunch, $10 dinner) were excellent.

The Gangster sandwich with prosciutto, salami, capicola, roasted bell peppers, eggplant, provolone cheese and a creamy pesto garlic aioli on a six-inch baguette ($8.50) might necessitate another visit, while the Artichoke Chicken Pizza promises artichokes, spinach and grilled chicken over a white garlic sauce and Salvatore's fresh pizza dough (an eight-inch pie is $6.50, while the 14-inch version is $15). On our visit, a staff member recommended the Wicked Chicken Riggi’s — rigatoni noodles covered with a spicy red cream sauce with grilled chicken ($10.50). To drink, Salvatore’s features approximately 15 Italian wines, a handful of classic cocktails and Peroni (among American beer offerings) on tap.

The space offers 80 seats, with a mix of booths, small tables and bar seating. The photos of Italian beaches, restaurants and monuments adorning the walls were taken by Jerry and Judy, creating an inviting, comfortable atmosphere.

Italian meals often seem designed for one of two settings — a romantic dinner for two or a family feast. Salvatore’s is certainly intended for the latter. The atmosphere, menu, space and energy of Salvatore’s is suited to rounding up friends and family, for passing around a bottle of wine, sharing hearty plates of food and lively conversation.

Located on the south end of Ozark on the Business 65 exit, Salvatore’s is the first business to occupy this space in a recently developed shopping center. The restaurant is open from 11am to 9pm Monday through Saturday and 11am to 8pm on Sunday.

1932 W. Retail Lane, Ozark, Missouri., 417.485.3838


Hungry for more Midwest food-scene news? Follow us on:

Click here to subscribe and each month you'll receive a delicious serving of Feast delivered directly to your home, hot off the presses!

Subscribe to our weekly enewsletter here!

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.