PHOTO/DENNIS MYERS

Casale's Halfway Club, an Italian restaurant on East Fourth Street between Reno and Sparks, was once described as “a Lady and the Tramp kind of place”—even down to the checkered tablecloths. The matriarch of this Truckee Meadows fixture, which is truly a family business, is Inez Casale Stempeck, usually addressed as Mama.

How old is the Halfway Club?

The Halfway Club is 75 years old.

Who started it?

My mother and dad, Elvira Casale and John Casale. My dad was very sick for a lot of years. And when he was sick, we came into this business. … This was our home and everything. We built this, and then we had a fruit stand. Then, we brought in grapes from Levy J. Zentner [a famed produce distributor] to make wine. Then, the more money we made, we kept building on, building on. We built this section on, the main kitchen, because up to that time, we didn’t cook the ravioli. The ravioli were [sold] raw. Well, because the old Italians, they made their own sauce. We made the ravioli, they took them out raw, they cooked them and used their sauce.

And they still do that.

They still do that. But mostly cooked, now.

When it first opened, was it just a restaurant and a bar, or just a bar?

It was a bar and a grocery store.

How old were you when you started working here?

I was about 14. We did dishes forever. And my brother did dishes. That was right after school, come right in, do dishes. … We were never allowed at the bar and never allowed to clean the gutter—you know, the spittoons and that, in the old days.

When you got married, did your husband [C.S. “Steamboat” Stempeck] come into the business?

We were in the service about two years. … And then my mother [said] “Steamboat looked to be a nice name for a bartender.” I knew, right then, I was sunk. Because I [had] said, “I’ll never bring my husband into this business, I’ll never come back.” … Never say never. So, I came back.

How many children do you have?

Six.

How many of them work here?

Now? [Counting:] One, two, three, four, five. Five.

How many grandchildren do you have?

Oh, I have 20.

How many of them work here?

Two girls.

So it looks like it’ll be kept going for a while.

I hope so. I hope so. You know a lot of people keep their business going hoping that their family will keep it up. … So I’m hoping for the best. I sort of got sick last year, and [son] Tony said, “I think I’ll start cooking.” And he started. And so I said, “Here”— handed him a big spoon. “Here you are, honey.”

You turned the kitchen over to him?

Yes, turned it over, said “Here’s your spoon,” … [son] John and I make the ravioli. I still make the dough. And we’re very lucky to have the business we have.

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Dennis Myers

Dennis Myers was the news editor of the Reno News & Review. He was a journalist for more than four decades. In 1987-88 he was chief deputy secretary of state of Nevada. He was coauthor of Uniquely...