“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.