Galati’s Italian Ristorante has been a fixture in Perryville for nearly 30 years.
Ask owner Salvatore "Sal" Galati about his favorite thing during that time, and he has a quick, ready answer.
"It's the people," Galati said. "The restaurant gives you the opportunity to know a lot of people."
And those people come from all over. In addition to regulars from all over Perry County, Galati's also sees many customers from Chester, Ste. Genevieve, Jackson, and Cape Girardeau. Some come from even farther away.
"The people that are traveling, just passing through," Galati said, "I go to their table and ask them, 'Where are you guys from? How did you find my place?' "
The answer, almost always, is referrals, either from locals or from the internet.
Regardless of how they find the cozy little eatery, Galati said they're all treated the same.
"Everybody's family here," Galati said.
Next week, Galati, and his wife, Vita, will retire, something both of them are looking forward to.
"I know we'll enjoy our free time, said Vita, who's been by Sal's side since the beginning, helping to run the business and raise the couple's four children. "We've been tied up for 45 years. Our weekends have been tied up, and I'm looking forward to having a free weekend.
Galati agreed, even though he already has plans on how to stay busy.
"We have 11 grandkids," said Galati. "Almost every month, we've got a birthday party. And we can go see games. When my boys were playing football, basketball, I only got to see maybe four or five games. The job, you've got to be here."
Even without Sal and Vita manning the kitchen, regular customers shouldn't worry. Not much will be changing. Former employee and longtime friend Amanda Klaus and her husband, Michael, will be taking over the restaurant beginning June 17.
Klaus is looking forward to the challenge. She started working at Galati's off and on since 2002, when she began as a waitress. Most recently, she's been filling in as a manager when the Galatis needed time off.
“We're really excited.” Klaus said. “The opportunity presented itself and we didn’t want to see a good thing close down, so we decided to purchase it. We wanted to keep their legacy going. Everything's staying the same, the name, the recipes, all of that. That's probably the biggest concern that we've heard thus far. It's definitely staying the same."
Galati said he's more than comfortable handing over his restaurant to Klaus, saying he's confident she'll maintain the same standards he and his staff have set for the past three decades.
"I like it, because she already knows everything about the business," Galati said. "We've been teaching Amanda all the recipes — how to make the dough, how to make the spaghetti sauce, the cream sauce, all that kind of stuff."
He's also confident his staff will be up to the challenge.
"The help we have right now is number one," Galati said. "For real. Very dependable, very good."
For the time being, Klaus plans to split her time between the restaurant and her full-time job at The Bank of Missouri, while her husband will keep his current job at Jackson Machine and Fabricating in Fruitland.
"We'll have staff that will run it for us during the day and we'll be there in the evenings," Klaus said. "We're actually expecting a baby at the end of the year. We're hoping we can make it until December and then my husband will likely quit his job and help with the day-to-day stuff."
Klaus did admit to one planned change. She wants to extend lunch service until 2 p.m. each day to serve those who take a 1 p.m. lunch break. In addition, Galati's will be closed the week of June 24 while Klaus and her husband go on vacation.
Galati's opened in 1990, the Galatis moved to Perryville from Flora, Ill., just south of Effingham. An Italian immigrant and veteran, Sal served in the Italian Navy before moving to the United States and marrying Vita, whom he met while she was on a trip to his native Sicily.
After arriving in the U.S., Galati learned the restaurant business in the early 1970s from his father-in-law, who later opened another restaurant for the newlyweds to run.
In October 1990, Galati's opened it doors at the corner of Main and North Streets in Perryville. In 2018, it was named the Republic-Monitor's Business of the Year.
“After so many years in business, many of the people who come in to eat really know us," Galati said. "It’s like a family. Everyone knows you, you can go to the store and hear, ‘Hey Sal, how are you?’ It makes you feel welcome.
“I'm very thankful for the opportunity [the people of Perryville] gave us and thankful for the business they brought us. We've had some very, very good customers."
Vita agreed, adding that she wanted to thank the community for its support and friendship.
"Everybody's family at Galati's," she said. "That's our motto."