Filed Under Food

Casale's Halfway Club

Named for its location halfway between Reno and Sparks, the family restaurant is one of the area's oldest and most treasured.

“If Mama Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy.” The clever motto—part description, part good-natured warning—graces an arched doorway inside Casale's Halfway Club, which has been operating as a restaurant for more than 70 years.

“Mama” Inez Casale Stempeck was just a young girl when her parents, John and Elvira Casale, opened a small produce stand at their family home halfway between Reno and Sparks in the late 1930s. Both natives of Italy, John and Elvira had met in Reno, where they married in 1920, and within a few years were operating the Coney Island Dairy, just down the road toward Sparks.

Back then, it was known as County Road, a stretch of U.S. 40 outside of city limits, within sight of the railroad tracks. Formerly the route of the Lincoln and Victory Highways, the surrounding area was gradually transforming from mostly Italian-owned ranches, dairies, and alfalfa fields to auto courts and motels competing for the growing tourism business.

John Casale had acquired the property from his former landlord at the dairy. Besides fruit, Casale’s Market offered handmade raviolis, at first for take-out only, and then by 1941 in a newly-remodeled seating area. Widowed in 1943, Elvira Casale briefly transferred operation of the business to new owners who renamed it the Halfway Club. When she took the helm again eighteen months later, the name became Casale's Halfway Club, which it has remained ever since.

As the years went by, the menu continued to expand, from ravioli to spaghetti, pizza, and other Italian specialties. In 1946, Inez married Casimir “Steamboat” Stempeck, who eventually became a partner in the business with Inez's brother, Jerry. A new ravioli room and storage room were added in the 1940s, further transforming the building from a family home to a fully-appointed restaurant.

Since 1969, Mama Inez has run the beloved local eatery with her children and, in more recent years, her grandchildren. In 2013, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, who recognized Casale's Halfway Club as the oldest continuously family-owned and operated restaurant in Reno, and possibly in the entire state.

Video

"It was a fruit stand at first." Interviewed by the University of Nevada Oral History Program in 2005, Inez Casale Stempeck recounts the origins and development of Casale's Halfway Club. Source: University of Nevada Oral History Program Date: 2005
"This is home for a lot of people." Interviewed in 2005, Inez Casale Stempeck describes the area surrounding Casale's Halfway Club, its enduring appeal, and her daily routine as head cook. Source: University of Nevada Oral History Program Date: 2005

Images

Vintage Photograph
Vintage Photograph An undated photograph shows the original brick walls, outdoor seating, and abundant signage advertising the Halfway Club's pizza pie, ravioli, spaghetti, and meatballs. Source: Neal Cobb and Jerry Fenwick
"Eat, Drink, and Be Merry"
"Eat, Drink, and Be Merry" A newspaper advertisement from 1948 claims the status of the only restaurant in town to serve pizza pie, a dish that Elvira Casale added to the menu in the early 1940s at the request of two women visiting Reno from the East Coast. Since that first order, the pizza has been made in pie tins. Source: Reno Evening Gazette Date: March 26, 1948
Family photo
Family photo Jerry Casale and Inez Casale Stempeck pose on either side of their mother, Elvira Casale, before a family trip to Detroit in 1950. Source: Inez Casale Stempeck Date: 1950
Family business
Family business In an advertisement from the early 1960s, Inez Casale Stempeck is joined in the kitchen by her oldest son, Charles. Inez and her brother, Jerry, ran the restaurant jointly with their spouses for many years. Source: Sparks Museum and Cultural Center Date: ca. 1962
Mama Inez in the kitchen
Mama Inez in the kitchen Inez Casale Stempeck demonstrates making a traditional dish in the restaurant's kitchen. This photograph was featured on the cover of the cookbook, Famiglia e Cucina, published by the UNOHP in 2007. Source: University of Nevada Oral History Program Date: 2005
Inez Casale Stempeck
Inez Casale Stempeck Surrounded by mementoes, awards, photographs, and signatures of happy customers, Inez Casale Stempeck relaxes in the dining room of her beloved restaurant. Creator: Photo by Patrick Cummings Date: 2014
Local landmark
Local landmark Named for its original location between Reno and Sparks, the restaurant is now embraced within Reno city limits. Source: Neal Cobb and Jerry Fenwick

Location

2501 East 4th Street, Reno, NV

Metadata

Alicia Barber, “Casale's Halfway Club,” Reno Historical, accessed May 24, 2024, http://renohistorical.org/items/show/100.