Jethros in Des Moines, Iowa

Pork, pasta team up for savory month-long celebration

By Aaron Putze

If you enjoy pork and pasta, then October is your month!

October is National Pork Month. It’s also National Pasta Month. And in Iowa, the two come together like few other places. This stands to reason as Iowa is home to Ames-based pasta maker Barilla and thousands of dedicated pig farmers.

It’s truly a reason to celebrate and Jethroni Pepperoni in Altoona is an ideal destination! 

Italian with flair

“It’s a fun, old world casual Italian family dining experience with a New World flair,” says owner and restaurateur Bruce Gerleman.

The restaurant is the newest of several popular central Iowa eateries established by Gerleman. Others include Splash Seafood Bar & Grill, Jethro’s Pork Chop Grill and Jethro’s Bacon ‘n Bacon.

It’s also hard to miss. Opened in March, Jethroni Pepperoni is perched just outside the entrance to Adventureland and features a 30-foot tall Portofino stone tower, stucco and tumbled brick with stained cedar and copper highlights. 

Once inside, you’re greeted with a broad smile by general manager Austin Harris. The Clarinda native and Iowa State University grad (says he attended the school “for the better part of a decade!”) loves the restaurant business – and it shows. He also possesses a deep respect for farmers having been raised in Page County, the birthplace of 4-H and home to numerous poultry, cattle, soybean, corn and pig farms. 

Harris wanted to play football at ISU but was undersized. After pursuing degrees in architecture and industrial technology, he found a home in the restaurant business, joining the Jethro’s team in 2014.

“I like interacting with guests – that’s my favorite part,” he says. “I’m a very social person so it’s perfect. And as manager, I’m able to do things and act on what people say. I can make improvements based on what I hear and the feedback I receive.”

Tempting menu

Jethroni Pepperoni, a proud partner of the Iowa Food & Family Project, features a tempting menu. It’s the work of chef Dominic (Dom) Iannarelli and includes five-cheese manicotti (a crowd favorite), the Colossal Meatball, chicken Parmesan and steak Sinatra. You can also build your own pizza.

But if you’re craving pasta and pork, then choose from a plentiful assortment of entrees including the pork chop Oreganata, sausage and peppers and manicotti sutera style, to name just a few.

Iannarelli and his team create and prepare recipes from scratch and, whenever possible, choose ingredients sourced from Iowa. Like pasta from Barilla in Ames and homemade sausages from Des Moines-based Graziano’s (a central Iowa institution since 1912). Jethro’s also obtains seasonings and other staples when it can from Iowa-based vendors and is Iowa’s largest independent purchaser of quality pork.

Chef Trevor Glandon has managed the culinary affairs of Jethroni Pepperoni from the moment its doors opened in March.

Raised in Bloomfield, Glandon attended Davis High School. During his junior year, he accompanied a classmate to Indian Hills Community College to participate in a culinary arts project. There he met the school’s chef, who also served as director of the program. 

Memories

“The whole experience brought back memories of my grandma rolling homemade noodles and gathering eggs and the countless hours snapping green beans and shucking sweet corn,” he said. “I instantly became intrigued with the restaurant business largely because of these memories. I quickly began reading up on the profession to learn the latest tips and techniques to be a successful chef.” 

In addition to enrolling in the culinary arts program at Indian Hills, Glandon began building a resume by working the fast food scene at Sonic in Ottumwa. Another co-worker who also attended Davis High School recommended he concentrate on the food side of the business. So, after graduating from Indian Hills in 2013, Glandon landed as a line cook for Montage, a trendy Cedar Falls eatery.

He then moved to Des Moines and, late last year, was hired as chef for Jethroni Pepperoni.

“I really enjoy the atmosphere,” he says when asked what he enjoys most about his work. “Dom is also very open to different opinions. We bounce ideas off each other all the time and there’s constant conversation. 

“We never settle but are always looking to improve. He’s around here a lot and he takes an active interest in everything we do. That’s what makes him and the food we serve special.”

Much like farmers, Glandon enjoys working with food because of his dedication to serving the customer. 

“One of the best forms of customer service is making food for someone and making their dining experience the best it can be,” he says. “The trust that goes into growing and preparing food for someone is so special so you could say that’s something that bonds the farmer, the chef and our customer.”

Pigged out fun facts

Did you know…

• Iowa farmers raise 40 - 50 million pigs each year, ranking Iowa first nationally. 
• Iowa is a popular place to raise pigs because Iowa also ranks first in soybean and corn production. These grains are the primary feed source for pigs.
• Nearly one-fourth of Iowa’s soybean crop is fed to pigs raised in Iowa, or about 120 million bushels (that’s nearly three bushels of soybeans per pig).

The Jethro’s family of restaurants

Sourcing more than one million pounds of pork from Iowa farmers each year, Jethro’s is the largest independent purchaser of pork in the state — and growing!

• Splash Seafood Bar & Grill, Des Moines (opened in 1998) 
• Jethro’s BBQ at Drake, Des Moines (2008)
• Jethro’s ‘n Jakes Smokehouse Steaks, Altoona (2010)
• Jethro’s Jambalaya, Waukee (2011) 
• Jethro’s Lakeside, Ankeny (2012)
• Jethro’s Pork Chop Grill, Johnston (2013)
• Jethro’s Bacon ‘n Bacon, West Des Moines (2014)
• Jethroni Pepperoni, Altoona (2016)

…Stay tuned for more in the works!

Sunday Sauce Pasta Recipe

Sunday Sauce Recipe

• 1/3 C. vegetable oil
• 2  C. diced onion
• 1/3 C. minced garlic
• 1 lb. hot sausage
• 1 lb. ground beef
• 1 ½ lb. pork shoulder meat
• 1 ½ lb. beef shoulder meat
• 3 oz. ground or diced pepperoni
• 2 C. red wine
• 1 T. crushed red pepper flakes
• 1 tsp. ground fennel seeds
• 5 C. beef broth
• 40 oz. crushed tomato
• 20 oz. stewed tomato

Start by sautéing the garlic and onion in the oil over medium heat. Cook until the onions become translucent. Cut the pork shoulder meat and beef shoulder meat into small pieces and add to the pan. 

Next, add the hot sausage, ground beef and pepperoni. Cook the mixture over medium high heat until the meats are light brown and the ground meat is broken down. Place the meat mixture into a large crock pot and add the red wine, crushed red pepper flakes, ground fennel, beef broth and both tomato products. Place your Crockpot on low for 4-6 hours, stirring occasionally. Once the sauce is finished; serve over your favorite pasta and enjoy — just like Grandma used to make!