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Little Danube to exit Ozark

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Little Danube LLC is about to say goodbye – for now – to the restaurant scene.

Owner David Pruteanu plans to shutter the Eastern European eatery in Ozark on June 22. But he said Little Danube isn’t closed for good.

Pruteanu, who also is head chef, plans to reopen the restaurant in Springfield within six to 12 months. He said the 519 N. 21st St. restaurant in Ozark is closing for a number of reasons, including the need for extended recovery time for an upcoming surgery, as well as the desire for a larger location and to work in Springfield, where he lives.

“I’m going to have foot surgery July 19 and am going to be out a couple of months,” he said of the doctor’s recommended recovery time.

Pruteanu’s been holding off on the surgery since he was 18, when he broke his foot participating in track and field while attending Union High School near St. Louis.

“It’s been getting progressively worse and worse,” he said. “It’s affecting my back and it really needs to be taken care of.”

The restaurant, which opened in July 2018, is also nearing the end of its one-year lease with Chambers Properties LLC at a rate of $1,250 per month. Pruteanu said the building’s small 900-square-foot size and landlord Warren Chambers not allowing alcohol to be served on-site also contributed to his desire to move on. He intends to serve beer and wine at a future establishment.

“We were shopping around for a few months now,” he said. “We wanted to try a different market.”

He said SVN/Rankin Co. is assisting in the search for the restaurant’s future home, with Pruteanu hoping to find a property that’s around 2,000 square feet. That will require a much larger staff than Little Danube’s current three employees, he said, estimating reopening could take up to a year.

Little Danube’s menu has largely stayed the same since opening, he said, featuring several items that showcase langos, Hungarian deep-fried potato bread. Chicken schnitzel and kielbasa potato hash also are served. Pruteanu said the diner’s regulars come two to three times a week, and the majority of them drive from Springfield.

“People really do appreciate this type of food,” he said. “There’s not really anything like it in the area.”

As the eatery approaches the end of its on-year run in Ozark, Pruteanu said he’s within $5,000-$6,000 of recouping his $30,000 investment to start the business.

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