Building a Fort Atkinson Tradition
Salamone’s Italian Pizzeria and Sports Bar in Fort Atkinson has hosted thousands of first dates, trivia nights, and celebratory meals over the years. But the founders were novices when they first entered the restaurant business.
“I had my family’s recipes, but cooking in a restaurant was all new for me,” said Filippa Salamone, who founded Salamone’s with her husband, Russ. “I started a little at a time, and I got used to it.”
Filippa and Russ got married in Sicily and lived in a close-knit Italian neighborhood in Rockford, Illinois, for the first ten years of their marriage. Filippa and her five children spoke Italian at home and around the neighborhood and didn’t feel the need to learn English. She never needed to drive in Rockford because her friends, extended family, and church were all within walking distance.
After Russ was laid off from his job, he and Filippa decided to open a restaurant in Wisconsin. They moved to Fort Atkinson in 1981, marking a huge change for Filippa and her family. She and the kids had to learn English. She got her driver’s license. And she learned how to cook for a crowd.
Their first Fort Atkinson venture was a small take-out location on the south side of town. Encouraged by their success, they moved to a larger downtown location on Main Street and then expanded again to their current location in 2000.
Today, three of their grown children run the restaurant and Filippa cooks there nearly every day. “We still do it the old way,” she said. “We make everything fresh.” She and her staff make their own dough and their own sauces, and Filippa makes her signature cannelloni, lasagna, meatballs, and other favorites from scratch. “I hope people like my food,” she said. “It’s homestyle.”
Although moving to Fort Atkinson was a big change, Filippa knows it was the right decision. “I love Fort Atkinson,” she said. “It’s a small city, and it’s beautiful. I’m glad we moved here.”
This portrait and story are part of "A Place to Call Home," a special exhibition by writer and photographer Lori Compas at the Hoard Historical Museum in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.