By Kevin Revolinski | Top photo by Hillary Schave
Often a large element of family tradition involves food. Grandma’s special pasta sauce, your mother’s meatloaf recipe or your dad’s secret method for grilling chicken. But for some families those coveted recipes serve many more people than just family — their kitchens welcome the public, at area restaurants. Here are a few.
In 1958, Ralf Clasen left his home in Germany and followed his brother, Ernst, to Madison, taking a job in a bakery. The brothers soon started selling their own breads out of their apartment, and in 1960, when a bakery went up for sale in Middleton, they bought it and Clasen’s European Bakery was born.
In 1943, Jim and Alice Wimmer bought a humble roadside cabin-restaurant with six tables. The Del-Bar, so named by its original owners because one was from Wisconsin Dells and the other from Baraboo, grew to become a distinguished supper club set in a Prairie-style building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright protégé, James Dresser. Today, photos in the restaurant’s lobby commemorate the family’s hospitality history.
When Christine Inthachith and her mother, Bounyong, arrived in the U.S. as refugees from Laos in 1980, they sought a way to connect and share their Laotian roots with their new home. Opening Lao Laan-Xang in 1989 was “a way for us to share our Lao culture and identity, values, traditions, and even our future,” says Christine. “My mom is a good cook — she knew how to make the traditional Lao dishes, and she taught us.”
Jodie Jefferson moved to Madison in 2017 from her hometown of Chicago for a paid job relocation with Payless Shoes. But soon after she arrived, the company suddenly shut down. She found other work, but Jefferson, who had an extensive background in catering, returned to cooking food. Initially, she did so out of her home.
Albanian transplants and husband and wife Gjyner and Zamira Lumani — along with Gjyner’s brother, Faton Lumani and his wife Luda — have co-owned Sofra Family Bistro since 1991 and Villa Dolce since 2006.
The story begins with homemade tamales being sold to neighbors and church members in Madison in 2001. Josefa Trejo and her husband, Francisco Vasquez, had just moved from Mexico the year before — and their tamale business really took off. In 2006, they opened Taqueria Guadalajara.