Messina Italian Restaurant offers catering as well as
their popular dining menu.
Photo by Art Dahlke
SAUKVILLE — The 2019 Small
Business of the Year designation was awarded to Messina Italian
Restaurant in Saukville.
The business is owned and operated by Carmelo and Leigh Raffaele.
Carmelo Raffaele was born in Sicily and immigrated to Milwaukee
where he met Leigh. Even before their marriage, Raffaele worked at
restaurants and for Kohl’s Food Stores. After they married, the
couple wanted to open their own business.
“My father loved to shop at Glorioso’s Italian Market (on the lower
east side in Milwaukee),” said Carmelo Raffaele. “So we thought we
could do something like that. There was an empty storefront in
downtown Cedarburg, which we thought would be a great location for
Messina – An Italian Market, opened in 1998. The store did very well
and their business grew.
By 2006, the Raffaeles were ready to move on. They wanted to expand
and the deli was not big enough. They found land on Progress Drive
in Saukville, just a bit north of and visible from Highway 33.
They built the restaurant and opened their doors on March 14, 2006.
“We did okay when we opened,” said Leigh Raffaele, “but were lucky
to be written up by Dennis Getto from the Milwaukee Journal
Sentinel. We didn’t have our full liquor license at first, so it was
slower until we had that.”
“We had a lot of really nice articles written,” said Carmelo
Getto voted Messina one of the Milwaukee area’s top new restaurants
in 2006. Per Messina’s website, Getto wrote that the restaurant had
everything, not just Italian entrees. That they are also known for
great steaks and fresh seafood is important to the couple.
“We are a destination restaurant now,” said Leigh Raffaele.
“We have a good family here,” said Carmelo Raffaele. “Not just our
children, Dominic and Erica, but our employees as well. Six of them
have been here since we opened. We also have great customers. Many
of them have become our good friends.”
Owners Leigh and Carmelo
Raffaele decided after they married that
they wanted to open just such a place.
Photo by Art Dahlke
Both of them were
truly surprised to be nominated for the Ozaukee Economic
Development Small Business award. Making their living in
a smaller community like Saukville, it just seems
natural to support their fire and police departments,
local churches and other area organizations. Carmelo
Raffaele says he works very closely with the Chamber of
Commerce and they are happy to do as much as they can,
especially during the holiday season.
Although they have no current retirement plans, having
grandchildren has given them a reason to think about it.
Their daughter Erica had their first grandchild a year
ago, and their son Dominic is expecting twin boys in the
“We don’t know for sure what will happen,” said Carmelo
Raffaele. “You can’t predict the future.”
Messina serves lunch and dinner, and has both carryout
and delivery. They deliver throughout Ozaukee County.
Progress Drive, Saukville
Dinner: Sunday, Tuesday-Thursday, 4-8 p.m.; Friday,
4-8:30 p.m. and Saturday, 5-8:30 p.m. Lunch:
Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-1p.m.