Community Center owners see restaurant as answer to lack of options
Area residents used to have to travel to Sheboygan or Port Washington to get a good Italian meal.
Donna and Randy Mathias, owners of the Belgium Community Center, are hoping to change that.
The couple, along with Donna’s brother, Jack Haas, opened Vino Italiano inside the Community Center, 548 Park St., in early October and are pleased with the results.
The restaurant had its grand opening Saturday.
“We’re kind of flying by the seat of our pants right now, having never operated a restaurant before, but we’ve had a lot of comments on how good the food is,” Donna Mathias said.
The couple, who bought the Community Center in 2012, decided to make something of the space that was only being utilized for holiday parties and other get-togethers.
The Community Center also has a large banquet area, bar and bowling alley.
“We just thought it was time to do something here,” Mathias said. “There really isn’t anywhere you can go in Belgium to get a good Italian meal.”
Open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 5 to 10 p.m., the seating area is quaint, with a few dozen tables, and the small staff works throughout the building.
The menu features classic Italian dishes like spaghetti, pizza, ravioli and mostaccioli and hearty sandwiches like a bomber with meatballs and Italian sausage topped with cheese.
Appetizers like bruschetta, pizza bread and a delectable Italian chicken Alfredo bread are also featured.
Desserts include a homemade Hershey bar torte made by one of the cooks.
“We’re working on a tiramisu, but we won’t put anything on the menu until we get it right,” Mathias said.
All the sauces for the pastas are made from scratch, Mathias said.
The restaurant will also continue its Friday night fish fry and has tilapia on the menu.
As the namesake suggests, they want to sell wine, but Mathias said a bartender is researching the right selections for the restaurant.
“We want some wines in here that other places don’t have,” she said.
Prices are affordable, ranging from $7.25 for a meatball sandwich to $23 for a large pizza.
Future menu items could include shrimp scampi and other specials, Mathias said.
She said business has been steady and can fluctuate depending on the day.
“We would like to be open five days a week, but I wanted to see how we would do first,” Mathias said.
It’s a difficult location for a business to thrive, she said, noting it’s “well off the beaten path.”
Mathias said that the center is offering open bowling on Saturdays and Sundays and hopes that will attract more customers.
Though the couple commutes daily from Antioch, Ill., about a 90-minute drive in good weather and traffic, they appear to be in it for the long haul.
“Hopefully word will get out and we’ll continue getting more customers,” she said. “I’ve already seen customers I haven’t seen before, which is a good thing.”
Image information: DELICIOUS ITALIAN FOOD was offered at the Saturday, Nov. 1, grand opening of Vino Italiano, the new restaurant inside the Belgium Community Center. Holding plates of garlic bread and a bomber, made with meatballs and Italian sausage, was owner Donna Mathias, along with her husband, Randy, who held plates of garlic bread and shrimp Alfredo. Surrounding the owners were (from left) employees Laura Berweger, Cody Mathias, Aaron Austin, Jean Franzen, Katrina Winter and Casey Carlson. Photo by Sam Arendt