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by William Keegan, Community Contributor
When Benny and Joy Leonardo opened their first restaurant in Chicago Heights in 1967 specializing in prime-aged steak and live lobster, little did they know it would mark the beginning of a decades-long love affair with fine dining that would include their entire family serving up old-world hospitality with a personalized touch.
This year, Mr. Benny’s Steak & Lobster House’s Matteson and Mokena locations are celebrating 48 years of combined business, and it’s truly a family affair. Together with their adult children — Nick, Larry, Vicki and Connie — Benny and Joy’s family have amassed an amazing 245 years of restaurant experience between them. And throughout the years they’ve built a loyal following among Southland families, celebrities, politicians and business people who appreciate the Leonardo family’s special blend of high-quality food, highly personalized service and inviting atmosphere.
From his first restaurant’s beginnings on Western Avenue in Chicago Heights, Benny Leonardo was widely regarded as a classic restaurateur and raconteur, skilled at remembering his customer’s names and favorite dishes and always ready with stories and jokes about life, politics and family. With his mother creating recipes in the kitchen, Joy welcoming guests, children Nick, Larry, Connie and Vicki washing dishes, bussing tables and helping at the bar, the family made every effort to turn each diner’s experience into a celebration of great food and conversation.
As business and its reputation as one of the best fine-dining values in the Chicagoland area grew, the Leonardo family moved the Chicago Heights restaurant to Matteson in 1977, featuring earth-toned brick walls, red leather booths and chairs and white tablecloths. And in keeping with Benny Leonardo’s love of music, diners could always count on the classic sounds of Frank Sinatra or Big Band music playing in the background. Today, the Matteson location also features video gaming positions for patrons, as well as a number of “specials” nights featuring “Open Mic” Night and Oyster Fest.
In 2000, the success of Mr. Benny’s in Matteson and the growth of towns like Mokena and Frankfort led the family to build a second restaurant in Mokena, one of the first buildings specifically designed as a restaurant in the area. Combining classic elements from its Matteson location and featuring an open kitchen, marble-topped bar/second dining room, the Leonardo family created a distinctive and inviting dining experience for the entire family.
Throughout its long history in the restaurant business, the Leonardo family has not wavered from its old-world philosophy of hospitality: serve the highest-quality prime-aged beef and fresh seafood dishes; deliver friendly, personalized service; and make every dining guest feel like they’ve been invited into the Leonardo home for a special celebration.
With traditional fine dining experiences becoming a lost art in this age of quick-serve and casual dining restaurants, it’s good to know that old-world hospitality and service are alive and thriving at Mr. Benny’s.
For more information about Mr. Benny’s Steak & Lobster House’s award-winning cuisine, banquet facilities, private parties and catering services, visit www.mrbennyssteahouse.com or call 708-478-5800. You can also contact them via e-mail at <a href=”mailto:email@example.com”>firstname.lastname@example.org</a> or call 708-481-5800 for reservations.
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