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94-year-old Sunny Italy Cafe still a South Bend staple, even with dining room closed

Published: Dec. 17, 2020 at 10:40 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 17, 2020 at 11:00 PM EST
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) -A restaurant you might have heard of if you’re from South Bend--Sunny Italy Cafe.

The Italian eatery that originally opened as Rosie’s Sunny Italy Cafe way back in 1926 is adjusting to the challenges of the pandemic, more than nine decades later.

16 News Now takes us inside to show us how they’re still whipping up traditional Italian dinners you can take home.

Sunny Italy Cafe served some big names throughout the decades like Doug Flutie, Father Hesburgh, and even 16 News Now’s own Terry McFadden.

Currently, their dining room is empty, choosing not to serve in person due to Covid-19 concerns, but their kitchen is still dishing out the flavors they’ve been known for, for the past 94-years.

“There are no recipes. I just know how things are supposed to taste and 99% of the time I hope I have that taste correct,” said owner Josephine ‘Sis’ Elliot.

There’s little reason to second guess ‘Sis’, who learned how to cook in this kitchen from her mother.

She still uses the same equipment and has been doing it ever since she learned how to use them.

Sis says things aren’t quite the same without the usual crowds inside.

“I think my favorite nights in here are when so many tables know each other, and they’re just visiting. It’s just a very good feeling,” Sis said.

Even though we can’t sit down at Sunny Italy and enjoy the nearly 100 years of history in their dining room, you can always taste it when you bring their food back home.

Even in the middle of a pandemic, the business uses lessons learned over the decades to show why they’ve been around for generations.

“We always use the term consistency. We try and keep everything the same. We always try to give excellent service, even for carry-out,” Sis said.

You’ll find them in the same spot they’ve been since the 1920s, serving the same flavors, and making them the same way that keeps their regulars coming back.

Sunny Italy Cafe is open for carry-out Thursdays through Saturdays from 4:00 P.M.-8:00 P.M.

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