Being Italian means lots of things to many people, but to Peppe Pilumeli of Little Italy's Etna it is a way of life and what he showcases in every meal he makes. Peppe came to the United States in 1995 after his sister Tina, who is a doctor at the Cleveland Clinic, recommended he come here. He was eager to work and learn what America had to offer.
Peppe comes from a small town twenty five miles from Catania called Enne. He has five sisters (Tina, Stella, Amella, Andriana, and Rita) and a brother (Alessandro) his mother is still alive and living in his hometown where he visits every year. It is his mother and siblings who first turned him onto cooking and it's his family who he says makes him the chef he is today. When asked the type of cuisine Peppe makes he responds," It is Casareccia, food that you would make at home".
When Peppe came to Cleveland, he opened up a restaurant with his brother Alessandro on Chagrin Blvd called Davide's. After only being open a year, they had to close. Peppe decided to go to work for his brother in law Valerio Iorio and his sister Stella who own Valerio's Ristorante in Little Italy. It was Valerio who Peppe says taught him the ways of the kitchen and who he says really prepared him for what he has accomplished today.
He stayed with Valerio from 1996-2007. In 2007 Peppe and good friend Antonio Calandra opened Il Bacio on Murray Hill in Little Italy. In 2009 Peppe decided it was time to go on his own, and on April 26, 2009 Peppe Pilumeli opened what is today's Etna. Antonio and him are still very good friend and occasionally, if you are out and about in Little Italy, you will see them sharing an espresso at each others restaurants.
Peppe says the restaurant is his life and his staff is a part of what make his restaurant have the home feeling he wants his customers to experience when they dine with him. Any given Friday or Saturday night you will see Peppe behind the bar after the dinner crowd has left showing customers his card tricks. When he is not cooking he enjoys watching soccer, and talking about sports cars.
Peppe has made his mark in Little Italy and on any given night you can walk down the street of Mayfield Rd. and hear the Italian music that guides you to Etna.