Italian flavor stays alive in Brookings

 Via Italia, formerly Italian Garden, brings the taste of Italy to Brookings. The restaurant offers a variety of Italian dishes and wines.

 The restaurant used to be owned by two gentlemen, but when they decided to leave, Mark Thompson became the new owner of the restaurant.

 “I was a former server and I was put in charge this summer … so we just transitioned into ownership and trying to make it run,” Thompson said. “I’ve had to learn all the ins and outs of ownership and the overhead material, that’s probably the most difficult part.”

 According to Thompson, most of the staff has stayed the same, “so that’s why we can provide the quality food that everyone liked before.”

 When Thompson took over he made changes to the restaurant décor, name, menu and the dining experience for students and community members.

“The students … they’re coming in more and more and seem to always like it,” Thompson said.

“The location is a little tough for students, but I want to see them.”

Senior pharmacy major Nicole Buchele and sophomore mechanical engineering major Jason Van Winkle went to Via Italia to try something new.

“We don’t go there that often,” Van Winkle said. “It’s something different.”

Van Winkle and Buchele said that they had both been there before and they liked their food the first time they went to the restaurant. 

“[It was] reasonably priced; it’s decent,” Van Winkle said. 

Buchele liked that they didn’t have to wait to get a seat; they were seated immediately.

Brookings community members have continued dining at the restaurant since the change in ownership.

Arlo and Judith Auch spent their 51st Valentine’s Day together the day before in order to escape the crowds. They recently moved to Brookings from Minneapolis in order to be closer to their daughters and grandchildren. Since coming to Brookings, Arlo ate at  Via Italia twice and he recommended that Judith come to the restaurant.

Judith tasted the Mediterranean salad and “everything [in it was] good for you.” She said the restaurant offered options that were good for diabetics and individuals with a gluten allergy. “I can bring my family,” Judith said.

 The menu was condensed to become simpler, Thompson said.

 “We choose all the favorite dishes and we can make those consistently well,” Thompson said. “But I believe the experience will be just as good because … we can concentrate on just those dishes.”

 Instead of having a big menu, Via Italia will be bringing out feature dishes that will run weekly. The feature dishes will be dishes that were on the old menu and dishes that are brand new.

 “We’ve had pretty good response for the last month and …we’re looking forward to a future,” Thompson said.

 Two new dishes on the menu are the chicken, broccoli, alfredo lasagna, which was featured on Valentine’s Day, and the Tour of Rome. Thompson said the Tour of Rome is “breaded shrimp, marinara sauce, melted mozzarella, over fettuccine alfredo.”

 “I felt like [the food] was made just for us,” Judith said. Arlo laughed as he said the food was definitely “not microwaved.”

 “I’ll be back,” Arlo said. “I’d highly recommend it.”

 The restaurant will continue to keep dishes the public enjoys, including the Tortellini Al Panna, which won General Entrée for the Taste of Brookings two years ago, and their pizzas, which won Best Pizza for the Taste of Brookings over the last two years.

 Thompson thinks their pizzas are their signature dish and the sausage and pepper parmesan is their most unique entrée.

 “We make our own dough every morning so the dough and the bread that’s all … homemade,” Thompson said.

 In addition to changing their menu, they added new wine options.

 “We’ve also added some authentic wines from Italy,” Thompson said. “It’s exciting to see what the response will be for [the wine].”

 Via Italia has started new and Thompson wants to start new experiences with customers too.

 ‘We really want to make sure that everyone that comes in here now leaves with a great experience and wanting to tell all their friends and wanting to come back,” Thompson said. “Same great food as before but even better quality and great service and a nicer atmosphere than before.”