While many restauranteurs would seek a high-traffic commercial area for their establishments, Venezia Italian Bistro co-owner Antonio Elecci and his extended family chose a secluded setting in Pekin.

“This location is very unique and has a lot of history,” he said. “We actually like it that it’s not in a commercial zone. Instead of having to watch yourself going in and out of a busy parking lot, you can feel comfortable before you actually even enter the restaurant.”

The lakeside setting of the former Chateau on the Lake attracted the family to 901 Chateau Drive, Pekin because a waterfront is a reminder of their roots, Elecci added.

“We’re from Venice,” he said. “Venice is a whole city built on the water. People will definitely enjoy the atmosphere and the renovations that have been done to the building.”

Elecci believes a combination of family recipes that are made from scratch, the pleasant lakeside location, and hard work and dedication will bring in first-time customers who will then become repeat customers. 

“I had the shrimp Roma (jumbo shrimp sautéed in butter, white wine, lemon, garlic, fresh basil and shallots),” said Venezia customer Leslie Welch. “It was wonderful. It was an appetizer, but it was enough food for a meal. For dessert, I had the Limoncello Moscopone cheesecake with chocolate drizzled on it. It was absolutely amazing. 

In addition to his own native city of Venice, Elecci has family members in Rome and in Sicily. To pay homage to those regions, the restaurant’s menu includes dishes from most parts of Italy. 

“Our shrimp and scallops Alfredo is really popular,” Elecci said. “We also do a really good shrimp Alvino and our chicken Giovanese is delicious. If you want veal, the veal picotta is my personal favorite. Our rolls and pasta are homemade. Everything’s cooked to order, and we buy top-notch ingredients.”

The idea of a new Italian restaurant in Tazewell County intrigued Dave Camp to make the trip from Delavan to try Venezia’s shrimp Alvino served over homemade linguini.

“I enjoyed it very much,” said Camp. “This location has memories for me, because I came to The Chateau for my prom in the 1970s. I was hoping that after the Chateau closed, another place would come in and become a signature restaurant. Venezia could be that place. The food, the service and the atmosphere are all excellent.”

Other restaurants run by Elecci’s extended family are Luigi’s in Mattoon and Venezia Italian Bistro in Taylorville. Elecci sees the new location as an opportunity to build on the success the family has enjoyed with the other two locations.

“When we look at Italian offerings in Pekin and North Pekin, we believe that Tazewell County can use a sit-down Italian restaurant,” said Elecci. “We want to expand on our family business, and we want to give the community authentic Italian food.”

Venezia Italian Bistro opened Dec. 21. The restaurant is currently seeking to hire wait staff, a bartender, and kitchen staff to help with preparation work and dishwashing duties. Hours of operation are from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/veneziabistroinc.