A Taste of Italy

By+Shelly M. Kurz

Once upon a time, a 12 yr. old boy went to Italy with his family to visit their homeland. While he was there, the people, the sights and the culture mesmerized him. Such an indelible impact was made upon his heart that today, decades later, he remembers every detail as if it were yesterday. That boy eventually grew up, worked in his family’s Italian bakery, attended college and had aspirations of becoming a Hollywood screenwriter.

While working at the bakery, he discovered his talent for making delicious sandwiches and giving them unique names. “When I wasn’t there, customers would come in and drive my dad crazy when they asked for some sandwich that I had made and he had no idea what they were talking about,” he recalls. It wasn’t long before his dad suggested he open up a little sandwich shop since the customers seemed to enjoy them so much. “I wanted to be a writer. I had no intentions of being in the restaurant business,” he says. “But my dad encouraged me so I decided to give it a try for a little while.” And the rest, as they say, is history because the little boy who grew up to start a sandwich shop was Jerry Macri and that is the story of how Macri’s Deli was born nearly thirty years ago.

Macri’s Deli spent its first 17 years at University Center. In 1997, it moved to a brand new shopping center, which Jerry built, called Time Square, on University Drive. It remained at that location until April 2008. Today, Macri’s Deli is all grown up and has a brand new home within the beautiful walls of Villa Macri Ristorante at Toscana Park in Mishawaka. “We had such a great following and so much tradition, that I didn’t want to lose that when we opened Villa Macri,” says Jerry. “Basically we’ve created two restaurants in one—you can still order Macri’s Deli favorites but we’ve added steaks, seafood, pasta and other family inspired dishes to our menu for Villa Macri…and it doesn’t matter which room you’re eating in, you can order anything from the menu.” Jerry’s goal with Villa Macri was to provide a variety of dining atmospheres and experiences so that whether customers choose the sports theatre room or the martini bar and watch the game on HD plasmas while they eat, they can do just that. Or, if they prefer finer dining or eating outdoors on the piazza, they can do that as well at Villa Macri. “We really do have something for everyone here,” he adds.

Probably the dearest place to Jerry’s heart in all of Toscana Park is the stunning piazza, complete with a magnificent marble fountain, that sits adjacent to Villa Macri Ristorante. “I had the idea in 2001 that I was going to open a piazza,” claims Jerry. “I always enjoyed the piazza atmosphere where people could gather and shop. I guess it started when I was a kid and used to play there when I went to Italy with my parents. Since I like to create and build things out of the ordinary, I thought it was time to create a kind of entertainment hub outdoors. ” The piazza was finally completed in Spring 2009 and made its grand debut in early July during the first annual Italian Fest. “I kept hearing over and over again from people how beautiful it was and how much fun they had there,” says Jerry. “The kids enjoyed playing in natural surroundings, too. We had a lot going on including bocce ball, Frisbee, live entertainment and plenty of Italian food!”

If the Italian Fest was the piazza’s coming out party, then the rest of the year is gearing up to be one fantastic date after another! Each week, the appeal and popularity of this fresh new gathering place grows stronger with such events as live music every Thursday and on the weekends, as well as an organic food market, which also happens every Thursday. And of course, there’s always dining, or just enjoying an espresso or gelato by the fountain while sitting at a cozy little umbrella-covered iron table. Plans are in the works to bring comedy acts to the piazza once a month. Villa Macri hosts a wine tasting and dinner on the piazza, too. A Fall Festival is planned for October, a Winter Festival for December, a 70s-themed New Year’s Eve party and a very heated outdoor beach party is on tap for January. There’s always something happening on the piazza, even if it’s folks just strolling, reading by the fountain or kids playing Frisbee, it is fast becoming all that Jerry envisioned.

Jerry’s eye for architectural beauty didn’t stop with Villa Macri Ristorante and the piazza. Toscana Park’s charming old-world feel and picturesque setting is as much a part of the design of the Lifestyle Center as the actual buildings that surround the restaurant. The entire center has his signature of refined elegance stamped all over it. From the moment you enter and take in the statuesque columns and lush landscaping, followed by a beautiful marble fountain to the roundabout that takes you back to a variety of retail shops set in a unique atmosphere, you just know this center was created by someone who has seen some beautiful places. And it is a true lifestyle environment with shops, restaurants and villas all within walking distance. One can find such unique shopping as All Stars Sports, Budget Blinds, Canine Crazy, Foot Solutions, Hugs from Heaven and Salon Ubon to name a few. The Villa Macri Ristorante is home to the Olive Branch, Nutrition Works and Caffé Gelato. “This is how it is in Italy,” says Jerry. “There are always people out walking the streets, socializing, enjoying a gelato, shopping, whatever. This is a place for people who like to be close to all the action and our villa owners really enjoy living here.”

Upcoming Events at Toscana Park/Villa Macri

Fall Festival
October 9 & 10, 2009

Winter Festival
December 2009*

New Year’s Eve Party
December 31, 2009

Irish Festival
March 2010*

Italian Fest
July 9, 10 & 11, 2010

Organic Food Market
Thursdays 12-7pm thru Oct. 29, 2009

Live Music Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays

Wine Tasting & Dinner Monthly*

*Check villamacri.com for more information


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