WAUKESHA — Dominic Albanese loved life, which included his family, his restaurant and patrons of Albanese’s Roadhouse, whom he described as “family.” Albanese died on Sunday at the age of 91.

“He has been in the restaurant business for almost 70 years,” his daughter Lori Syverson said.


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The family has been touched by all the cards, texts and messages from people who remember the patriarch, business owner and friend.

He always wanted the restaurant to be family-friendly and affordable. He didn’t just want couples for customers, according to his daughter.

“He wanted kids to be able to come in for spaghetti and pizza,” she said.

Dominic Albanese’s life force was his family and his restaurant. He would never willingly walk away from it.

Syverson remembered her brother Joe Albanese picking up their dad and taking him to the restaurant.

“My dad thrived there. That was his home,” she said.

His customers loved him very much, she said.

Dominic loved all aspects of his business, which included talking with customers or as he called them “family.”

It was Dominic’s business decision to make sure there was a family member at most times to greet people in the restaurant.

“People came for the personal connection. I don’t even know if they came for the food,” Syverson said.

The secret ingredient to making Albanese’s Roadhouse a success, she said, was his love of people.

“My dad was a people person and loved life. His philosophy was if you want it, go for it,” Syverson said."

 

Taking a chance

Dominic Albanese was known for taking chances, which came from his parents.

Joseph Albanese came to the United States from Italy and later married Frances, who was also Italian. They used their family recipes to start the business in 1940 in Milwaukee.

“My dad worked for my grandfather from the time he was 12 and it was always his dream to have his own restaurant,” Syverson said.

They taught the recipes and traditions to their son, Dominic, who took over for them along with his wife, Elayne.

At one point he worked in the private club industry, working for Western Racket Club and Bluemound Country Club.

“He was in his 50s when he opened the restaurant (on Bluemound Road) and he put everything my parents had on the line to do it,” she said.

Joe Albanese and Syverson remembered the hoops their dad had to go through to open the restaurant. In the 1980s the city of Waukesha had a restriction that prevented a restaurant from being built on that site. Mayor Shawn Reilly’s father Bill was an attorney in Waukesha and he represented Dominic. The property had already been purchased and the Common Council voted against an amendment Reilly proposed.

“Mr. Reilly wouldn’t stop and found an obscure law that went back to the 1800s saying you couldn’t build a restaurant on that property but what you could do is build a roadhouse,” Syverson said. The rest is history.

Syverson reflected on how many people aren’t willing to take a chance, especially in their older years.

“He was a chance taker,” she said.

Taking chances was something he instilled in his son Joe and daughter Lori.

While Joe Albanese took over the restaurant, Lori wanted to move to Minnesota.

“He said he would like me here in Waukesha but he said he wanted me to be happy more than he wanted me here,” she said.

That meant taking a chance.

“He didn’t want me to look back when I was older and say I wish I would have given it a try,” she said.

 

The best dad and mentor

According to his children, Dominic Albanese was not only a great businessman and friend but also an amazing dad. He and his wife were there for their kids’ school plays, games and anything important that came up. His son, Joe Albanese, described him as the best dad and his best friend.

“Not many kids can say they could work with their dad for 40 years side by side. It’s the most thing I treasure,” Joe said.

There was an occasional butting of heads but not very often.

“I learned from him that you have to be there. For the first couple of years it was tough. I was 18 and all my friends were doing stuff and I worked six nights a week. I got to grow with the business. We really built it from the ground up,” Joe said.

He remembered the last conversation he had with his dad shortly before he died. Dominic asked how the business was going and wanted his bartender’s license. He asked his son if he could bartend with him. They gave each other a kiss and hug and told his dad anytime.

Both Lori and Joe reflected on their father’s long and loving marriage. Lori said they were married for 66 years before Elayne died in 2019. Joe added their dad gave their mom a lot of the credit for keeping the family going.

“I think my mom was waiting for him. He maybe had to wait a couple of minutes because St. Peter had some questions for him, but she was waiting for him,” Joe Albanese said.

Funeral services include a visitation on Tuesday at the Harder Funeral Home, 18700 W. Capitol Drive, from 2 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. with services at 5:30 p.m.. Private family entombment at Holy Cross Cemetery.

The Albanese family extends their sincere gratitude to Kris and her staff at Avalon Square for their compassionate care.