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Q • Every time I go to Pietro’s on Watson I hope they have their delicious Stuffed Green Pepper Soup. It is a favorite of mine. I would love to make it at home. — Mary Ziegelman, St. Louis

A • Every day for the past 37 years, executive chef Joe Neri at Pietro’s Restaurant in south St. Louis fires up the soup pots. His soups are so popular guests come in on specific days for specific soups. Here’s Pietro’s standard lineup each week: ham and bean on Mondays, steak soup or beef barley on Thursdays, clam or corn chowder on Fridays, and meatball or ravioli soup on Saturdays. He mixes in split pea, lentil and other specialties in between.

Neri is only the third executive chef at Pietro’s since it opened in 1960. While many signature recipes have been on the menu for years, Stuffed Pepper Soup is a newcomer to the favorites list. He’s only been making it for four and a half years. How did he come up with the idea?

“I was looking at a whole pan of leftover stuffed peppers, wondering what to do with them. I thought all the great flavors for soups are in stuffed peppers, so I made soup, ” he says. For the inaugural batch, Neri scraped out the rice stuffing, chopped the pepper shells, and got cooking. He added broth, diced tomatoes and spices. The soup was so popular it’s now in regular rotation. The soup will be available every day for two weeks following the publication of his recipe.

Neri encourages home cooks to experiment with soups. He knows the dishes at Pietro’s so well he rarely cooks by recipe at the restaurant, but he slowed down his process to record each ingredient, amount and instructions to re-create this recipe for Special Request. He also cut down the massive quantity he makes to a manageable size for families.

Owner Marianne Iovaldi sat in on our discussion. She owns and works at the big Italian restaurant with her family and co-owners — husband John II and son John Murray Iovaldi, who is known as “Mur.”

She suggested pairing the stuffed pepper soup with a side of cheese garlic bread. “Joe’s soups are great. He’s got a talent for soups and sauces,” she says. “You can also order soup as a side to our daily lunch specials instead of a salad. People often order a soup and a salad.”

“Mur’s grandfather opened Pietro’s in 1960 (with partner Marco Griffero). We’ve served generations of families at the restaurant,” she says. “People often first come here as teenagers. We don’t see them as often as young adults, but they come back as parents, and later, with grandchildren.”

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