AMERY, Wis. (WCCO) – We’re in the final week of our summer series Goin’ to the Lake, and this week, Mark Rosen and Ali Lucia are in Amery, Wis.
It just more than an hour from the Twin Cities to get there, so it’s perfect for a weekend getaway or even a day trip. It is a very tight-knit community.
And one that’s welcoming and helpful to visitors or newcomers, as we found in a visit to Amery Family Restaurant on Wednesday.
The Amery Family Restaurant is like countless American diners in Wisconsin. Good comfort food in a comfortable setting. But the story behind this converted Hardees is special.
“The first days when we opened the doors, the people gave us the welcome, the support that I never thought there was going to be,” Chili Ilagi said.
Chili Ilagi and his wife are Albanians from Macedonia. They opened the restaurant five years ago. It’s part of a family tradition that started in Chicago and now covers northern Wisconsin.
That’s right. If you pass a “Family Restaurant” in Wisconsin, it’s owned by one of Chili’s family members. There are now 26 of them.
“Every day I get to meet new people. Every day I get to be with the people,” Chili said.
Chili and his family didn’t know what to expect when they moved to Amery. Now, they won’t be leaving.
“This is our hometown. This is my town and I’m not moving anymore from here,” Chili said.
Chili couldn’t stress how welcoming Amery, Wis., has been. He says when he spent time in the hospital last year after an accident, the town came together to help put a roof on the house he’s building.
The whole time our crew was there, people were saying, “hi Chili!” as they came and went.