Lo Sole Mio Lives on in Memories: The Sun Sets on Beloved Family-owned RestaurantNov 01, 2022 08:17AM ● By Leo Adam Biga
Photo by Bill Sitzmann
The final weekend before the closure of Lo Sole Mio Ristorante, fans lined up–sometimes waiting hours–for a last taste of the authentic Italian cuisine and warm greetings served by owners, Marie and Don Losole. From the moment the couple announced the end of a three-decade run, memories have flooded social media. For many, it’s like losing a second home; hardly a single anecdote doesn’t mention family.
The best food, the aphorism goes, is made with love. That was never more true than at this South Omaha landmark restaurant and banquet hall on South 32nd Avenue, where the Losole’s old-world hospitality infused their specialty dishes.
The family’s story is worthy of an opera. Start with post-war Italian orphan Marie begging in the streets before being adopted by an American family and meeting her true love, Don Losole, in Omaha, where they eloped at 18. The couple embarked on a food industry career culminating with the opening of Lo Sole Mio in 1992. Tragedy ensued in 2013 when their son, Dino, died in a motorcycle crash, effectively ending plans to pass it on to the next generation.
Though the restaurant and Villa banquet hall are no longer open, memories live on. “That’s what we always wanted to do–to help create memories for people of what a good time they had,” Marie said. She called the outpouring of memories by devoted customers “overwhelming and humbling.” Her husband Don added, “It’s hard to believe.”
Typical of comments on social media, Theresa Turk recalled Lo Sole Mio catering her wedding reception. “To this day I still have people remark about the food. The marriage may not have lasted, but the memories of the food did.”
Amanda Colanino-Dickinson expressed thanks to the couple “for being not only an Omaha staple but a family staple–we celebrated lots of family events there.”
Similarly, Tony and Mary DeSanti remembered spending many special family occasions at Lo Solo Mio and the Villa. Two of which were their retirement parties and 50th wedding anniversary celebration.
For Tara McGrail, Lo Sole Mio has been inseparable from life with her husband, Ryan. “One of the very first places [he] took me on a date was Lo Sole Mio. It became our special place.” They celebrated their engagement dinner there and the prenuptial dinner was in the Villa. “To this day, friends talk about that meal and how great it was.”
The heartwarming stories don’t surprise Marie. “We were a destination restaurant and celebratory place,” she said. “We’re very honored, blessed, and humbled about how people felt they should spend these special times with us…they made our dream come true. They’re a part of our dream. You can’t put a price or ceiling on it. It’s such a warm, wonderful, loving feeling that you actually became a part of their life…because you helped to make it special.”
Jim Abraham said he and wife Barb appreciated how diners were always made to feel a part of the family. “It is really hard to create that kind of environment in a restaurant, but Don and Marie pulled it off.”
Patrons’ nostalgia often references their favorite meals: pasta e pomodori, pasta alla carbonara, stracciatella, and baked lasagna, some of which will be featured in a book Marie is planning. She still cooks Sunday family dinner the way her mother and grandmother did and knows well that sensory food memories linger in the mind and are triggered by tastes and smells.
Jan Colanino said that a Lo Sole Mio experience came down to food, atmosphere, and family. “My favorite time of year to visit was winter. It could be cold and nasty outside, but the restaurant was warm and cozy and smelled so good.”
Jeanie Agosta Harrell recalled celebrating her 50th Marian High School class reunion. “True to form, Lo Sole Mio did not disappoint. The staff was amazing, Marie came by to make sure everything was perfect, which it was.”
Growing up across the street from the restaurant, Kateri Petto regarded the Losoles as more than restaurateurs. When her father became wheelchair-bound, Dino and some of the kitchen crew built him a ramp. When he died, Marie showed up with pans of food. “I can’t begin to explain how much that meant to my family,” she said. “While we miss the sweet smell of garlic and red sauce, the foot traffic from eager patrons and kind workers, we will miss seeing Don and Marie the most.”
Meanwhile, Marie and Don continue receiving texts, emails, and phone calls. More than customers, she said, “These people are friends—we’re in each other’s lives.”
Update: In early October, the Losoles leased their former restaurant building to Lance and Sara Brown, who plan to open a new Italian eatery onsite. The couple hopes to debut The Mio, named in tribute to the former tenant, by the end of the year. The Villa banquet facility has also been leased to a Puerto Rican culinary outfit, Chinchorro Caribbean Bistro, which will bring a new ethnic flavor to the neighborhood.
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2022 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.