Pero's on the Hill
Critic's star breakdown
- Food: 3.5
- Service: 4
- Atmosphere: 4
- Overall: 3.5
If it weren’t for The Grub Spouse, I might never have known about the history of the original Pero’s restaurant, which was a Knoxville dining mainstay from the early ’60s to the early ’90s — just barely overlapping my arrival in East Tennessee.
Pero’s — originally owned and operated by the Peroula family — is back, this time in the Rocky Hill neighborhood, where Tom & Barry’s used to be. The Spouse and I stepped into what had traditionally been the building’s front entrance, only to discover that the hostess stand is now set up inside what I always considered to be the building’s rear entrance. There is more parking in back, however, as well as patio seating.
The former “front” room now has pizza ovens where the bar used to be, and a narrow hallway connecting the front and back dining areas displays old newspaper ads and menus from Pero’s former incarnation. Overall, both dining areas have been updated with stylish Mediterranean touches, giving Pero’s a more upscale atmosphere than its predecessors.
The menu emphasizes Greek and Italian comfort foods, and stays focused on a not overwhelming number of core items. Appetizers range from tzatziki dip and spanikopita to garlic rolls and Greek fries. We passed on all the apps as well as Pero’s four salads (including a Greek salad, naturally).
Pero’s offers a handful of burgers, a couple of gyro wraps, several sandwiches and pasta dishes like spaghetti and meat sauce, fettucini, pesto and tortellini and jumbo beef ravioli. Our server recommended the ravioli as well as the chicken-based Buffalo Solider sandwich.
We passed on those but did go with a couple other of his recommendations — the pizza and the pasticcio from the main entree section (other entrees include chicken or veal parmesan and lasagna). Pasticcio is a Greek-style lasagna made with pasta and seasoned beef topped with a bechamel sauce.
Pizzas are made in 10-, 12- and 14-inch sizes, with prices starting at $6.25 for a cheese-only 10-incher. Additional toppings start at $1.25 per. I got a 12-inch pizza with ground beef, mushroom, onion and Italian sausage. I actually just wanted three items, but the menu only offered pricing for one, two and four toppings before jumping to unlimited toppings. By the way, there are 18 toppings from which to choose.
We enjoyed our courteous server from the beginning, and our evening moved along at a relaxed but efficient pace. He maintained a nice balance between presence and absence and was on top of our drinks and dirty dishes.
Foodwise, the pasticcio was enjoyable, but I enjoyed much more the same entree at another local restaurant recently. Pero’s nutmeg seasoning is distinctive, however, and still makes this a unique and hearty Mediterranean treat.
Pizzas are made on a thin crust, and ours was too burned around the bottom perimeter. And I felt that for the $5 extra we paid for four toppings, we were shorted on quantity. As a result, no single ingredient was strongly represented. I also didn’t like how all the toppings were grouped in the center of the pie, leaving the outer half of each slice a sauce-and-crust wasteland. In terms of flavor, the pizza wasn’t that bad overall, but I could easily shuffle Pero’s down my priority list.
I think Pero’s has more going for it and more definable character than the restaurants previously in that location. But for this place to last 30 years based on its pizza may just be pie-in-the-sky thinking.
© 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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