Vesuvio heats up the dining scene
New Italian restaurant opens in St. Charles
by Renee Tomell
Just as volcanoes are prone to change landscapes, Cafe
Vesuvio has erupted on the St. Charles scene promising a new
dynamism in fine dining.
With added inspiration from chef Rennie Bahr, the owners
of what was Rocky and Bullwinkle's are scaling new heights
with a freshly focused commitment to creating an enhanced
dining experience. The transition was completed two weeks
ago, and the restaurant celebrates its grand opening this Friday
through Mother's Day.
The redecorated restaurant boasts a light and airy design in
shades of white and peach with accenting touches of teal. The
former lounge area is transformed into the smoking section of
the dining room, and includes a corner of smaller tables
perfect for savoring espresso or cappuccino with dessert.
They include such hand-prepared treats as crepes smothered
with strawberries or puff pastry hearts filled with white
chocolate nougat floating on a bed of homemade fruit custard
in flavors from kiwi to berry.
Owner Craig Lee and his wife, Tricia, the restaurant's
general manager, visited numerous Italian restaurants to en-
sure that Cafe Vesuvio's menu promises unique dishes. "We
want to be something different," Craig Lee said, adding he's
been pleased at customers' responses to the change.
Chief among the chef s special touches is a commitment to,
preparing authentic dishes from scratch, whether it be soups
or entrees right down to the pesto flavored olive oil that puts
butter to shame when drizzled on fresh-from-the-oven rolls.
The menu also gives a '90s emphasis to healthful selections
such as lasagna prepared with ground turkey or a variety of
low-fat items designated "heart-healthy." His skill with fresh
herbs means minimal salt finds its way into recipes.
Given the variety of dishes on the menu, Bahr describes
Cafe Vesuvio not as Italian in scope but as a "world restau-
rant," which lives up to its volcanic namesake in terms of
continuing surprise and recipes with "zip."
In the summer months, Bahr will grill specialty items out-
doors, such as smoked rib-eye or swordfish and tuna steaks.
"We want to be affordable,” concurred Bahr and Craig Lee
about the new venture. "When you see the appealing presen-
tation and sizable portion, it should exceed expectations," Lee
To keep the menu fresh, the chef will continue to add new
specialties, and Bahr is quick to assure he'll happily prepare
an old favorite as a special request if it isn't featured. "The
name Vesuvio has meant change for thousands of years," Bahr
said, noting that part of the excitement of working in a good
kitchen is the luxury of altering the menu.
Fred Fischer, the beverage manager, has added specialty
beers to the offerings, including Warsteiner (the top-selling
beer in Germany) and Baderbrau on draft. And, of course, the
fruit of Italian vineyards has not been forgotten.
Craig Lee said the members of the serving staff have
worked hard to make the transition a smooth one, and are
excited about the new enterprise which is open from 11:30
a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, until 11 p.m.
Friday and Saturday, and 9 p.m. Sunday. Reservations are
offered at 377-7171. -
While the menu is definitely upscale, Tricia Lee wants
everyone to know they're welcome whether they drop by in
blue jeans or suits. "We still want people to feel comfortable."