In Clayton, Peno features a menu of southern Italian soul food including salads, pasta, pizza and more. Owner Pepe Kehm opened the eatery, which offers carryout via online ordering, in 2016.
“So much of what we do is in house,” Kehm says. “We hand-make our pastas, breads, pizza doughs and sauces.”
Before opening Peno, Kehm operated local businesses including Felix’s Pizza Pub in St. Louis’ Clayton-Tamm neighborhood and Spaghetteria Mamma Mia in that municipality’s midtown. He comes from a long line of restaurateurs with nearly a century’s worth of roots stemming from Calabria in southernmost Italy.
“We call our food the Creole of Italy,” Kehm says. “It’s a flavoring profile that includes Turkish, Far East, Middle East and African influences – all those blended spices and aromatics that kind of make up southern Italian food. It’s a melting pot of worldly food.”
Peno, which is named after a few inspiring individuals of the same name – including Kehm’s grandfather, Guiseppino Grandinetti – features family recipes and scratch-made comfort food.
From the rotating seasonal menu, customers can choose from starters such as a beet-and-goat cheese salad with spinach, arugula and pistachio-encrusted goat cheese.
Specialties include seafood pasta with black spaghetti, fresh fish, clams, mussels and red broth; Pizza Pepe with spicy chicken, escarole, wild mushroom, calabrese chile oil, fresh ricotta and oven-roasted tomato; and a lavish seafood stew featuring halibut, swordfish, tuna, clams, mussels, octopus and shrimp, incorporating oven-roasted tomatoes and spinach in a tomato saffron broth, with orzo, potatoes, peas, mushrooms and breadcrumbs.
“For us, it’s more about putting food on the plate than foams or finishing dabs,” Kehm says. “It’s just a real kind of comfort food – not a lot of show, but a lot of go.”
Peno, 7600 Wydown Blvd., Clayton, 314-899-9699, penosoulfoodstl.com
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