One family has taken a long journey to come together to create a one-of-a-kind restaurant offering in downtown Danville. Pescara, next to the old Freddie’s location on South Fourth Street, will serve homemade Mediterranean dishes and pizza.
The family is having a “soft-opening” today by invitation only, with the grand opening at 5 p.m. Saturday. Nebojsa Perosevic, who goes by “Nash,” moved to the U.S. from Montenegro to join the rest of his family two years ago. After having a hard time finding a job, Perosevic spoke to his in-laws and wife about opening their own business.
“I was sure I’d have to go back after not finding a job,” Perosevic says, adding he was not happy about it. His 2-year-old daughter, Ellena, was born here, and son Ogi, a 17-year-old soccer player at Danville High School, speaks perfect English. So he turned to his wife Dejana’s parents, Bobo and Munevera “Muni” Dulovich, who he says are excellent cooks with restaurant experience. The Duloviches made Danville their home after leaving Yugoslavia during the war 15 years ago.
“You have to be very good if you want to have success in a restaurant. My mother- and father-in-law are very good teachers,” Perosevic says. “It’s not my business, it’s our business. If you want to have success, it’s very important you have your family with you.”
Bobo Dulovich studied Italian cooking, focusing on pizza-making, and opened in 1978 what Perosevic says was the first pizzeria in Yugoslavia. He named it Pescara as a tribute to where he studied — a small, old-world town on the coast of Italy. Perosevic says Bobo Dulovich was known throughout the area as the master of pizza.
“He knows what he’s doing, and you’ll know this when you only smell the pizza … ,” Perosevic says. “We’re returning the name Pescara not just to remind him, but to make him feel like he’s back there. Back, before the war.”
Perosevic doesn’t talk much about the Yugoslav wars, fought in what used to be Yugoslavia in the 1990s. The conflict began with Belgrade wanting to keep the area under its control and prevent the republics on the other side from achieving sovereignty.
It was a complex war, lasting almost an entire decade, and resulted in deadly ethnic conflicts among the people of the area, with Serbs and Montenegrins on one side and Croats, Bosnians and Slovenes on the other. Mass murders and genocide are the memories the people of this area carry with them today, as the conflict is referred to as the deadliest one in Europe since World War II, with key players being charged with war crimes. Deaths are said to have been in the 140,000 range.
Bobo Dulovich lost his restaurant during the war, then he and Muni fled to the U.S. for a better, more secure life. He retired from Centre College housekeeping, and Perosevic says Bobo had been walking around with a frown on his face — until Perosevic brought the restaurant and pizzeria idea to him.
Since they began working together on the restaurant, Perosevic says, “Oh, it’s like he’s young again. Look at him, you know?”
Bobo hand tosses pizza behind the bar at the back of the restaurant, effortlessly flipping and spinning a circle of dough in the air. A huge smile spreads across his face when he knows he’s being watched, and then he gets serious when sliding the masterpiece into the oven built into the wall. He stands by quietly, watching the pizza rise.
“We make our own ketchup,” Perosevic says, referring to what he calls pizza sauce. “And a thin crust so you can taste the toppings. We are sure no one around here has tasted the pizza he makes before.”
Custom-ordered pizzas will be offered, but “Bobo will tell you if something won’t taste right together. He says, ‘This topping won’t go well with this topping, it will be too bitter ...,’” Perosevic says.
Perosevic offers up some of his father-in-law’s caprioccosa pizza, fresh out of the oven and smelling of strong Italian spices and homemade cheeses.
Perosevic describes the taste as “so simple.”
“We have our way of preparing. We have some secrets. Almost everything is homemade here — cheeses, pasta, breads. We hope people will have the feeling they are sitting outside somewhere eating, behind the wall of an old city. We want people to be able to taste something they haven’t ever before.”
As for Muni Dulovich, Perosevic says she will help out in the kitchen by teaching a few trusted employees some of the hundreds of recipes she stores in her head. The day before the soft opening, Muni hands over a small dish of panna cotta, dripping with a dark red sauce and topped with raspberries. A refrigerator in the kitchen stores the tiramisu, baklava and row back chocolate cake (more like a torte), all handmade.
Perosevic says he could not have opened a restaurant of this caliber without his mother-in-law’s recipes. “She’s really the secret here. She’s it,” he says.
Items on the menu run from $4.25 to $17, and include a unique offering of dishes. Swiss chicken (served with Swiss cheese and a homemade white sauce), Pescara steak (rolled and stuffed with sour cream and prosciutto) and homemade crepes of multiple fillings are just a few of the choices.
Perosevic specifically selected several premium, imported and domestic wines to go with the unique offering of food, as a nice selection of interesting imported beers.