Owners excited to have doors open at Meli restaurant in downtown Waukesha

Todd Ponath
Llazar Konda and Nicko Sifnaios pose inside their newly opened restaurant and bar on Main Street in downtown Waukesha Monday, June 8. Meli is a Mediterranean and American restaurant and it occupies the space vacated by Generations at 5 Points.
Published on: 6/9/2015

Downtown Waukesha was a natural fit for Llazar Konda and Nicko Sifnaios to open their new restaurant.

For Konda, he has served the downtown clientele for 3 1/2 years as the manager of Taylors People's Park. Moreover, his wife, Alyssa, recently opened a new yoga studio across the street from where his new restaurant, Meli, is located at 294 W. Main St., the site of the former Generations at 5 Points.

For Sifnaios, co-owning Meli, a Mediterranean and American restaurant-bar, with Konda is the next phase in his career after learning the trade from his family, which owns Christina's Restaurant, 350 Delafield St., in Waukesha. Sifnaios, whose parents come from Greece, also owns Tuscan Hall Banquet Center, 409 Delafield St., which hosts weddings and other private events.

Konda and Sifnaios held a soft opening at Meli, (pronounced Meh-Lee), on June 2 and as of this week are operating seven days a week for lunch and dinner.

"I love it and see the opportunity," Sifnaios said. "I want to grow here in the city, otherwise my family wouldn't have two other businesses."

Konda added: "I love downtown Waukesha. This has become home for me. I live two miles away from here. Between this business, my wife's business and our home, we've spent $500,000 in Waukesha. I feel I'm part of this.

"This is home for me."

Coming to Waukesha

How Waukesha became home for Konda is quite the story. Konda was born and raised in Athens, Greece, and operated two restaurants there.

He probably would still be living there and running those restaurants if he hadn't met Alyssa, an Oconomowoc resident who at the time was vacationing in Greece with a friend when she randomly met Konda about eight years ago.

Konda said he saw Alyssa walking down the street outside his restaurant and a relationship quickly formed. He said they stayed in touch and she actually surprised him when she returned to Greece a month later.

"That's when I knew there was something special there," Konda said.

The two married within a year in Greece and Konda then later made the move to Wisconsin.

He later met Sifnaios through Sifnaios' father-in-law after going to Christina's as a customer. Sifnaios said he and Konda quickly formed a relationship. "He had a little bit of a home away from home at the restaurant," Sifnaios said.

Opening Meli

When Konda heard Jeff Oberholtzer, the chef at Generations at 5 Points, was closing his restaurant in March to grow his barbecue food-truck business, Konda knew the downtown spot would be a good fit.

"It was the right place," said Konda, who remodeled the interior of the restaurant with bold red and gold colors. "I didn't just want to open up a restaurant. I wanted a specific place that I liked around here. This was one of those places."

Sifnaios added: "We want a place that is going to provide a comfortable atmosphere, invite all people and (we'll) really pride ourselves on fresh ingredients and local ingredients with a nice, unique Mediterranean menu. People are going to love it."

Meli — which means honey in Greek — will have a menu of small and large plates along with a mix of sandwiches.

While both Konda and Sifnaios have a Greek background, Konda wanted to stress that it's not a Greek restaurant.

"A lot of people think because of my heritage people think I'm doing a Greek restaurant," Konda said. "I'm not doing a Greek restaurant."

Menu has variety

Some of the small plates include fresh Wisconsin cheese curds fried in Spotted Cow beer batter, crispy chicken wings, crisp calamari (fried squid) and braised lamb gnocchi. Small plates range from $5 to $9.

Sandwiches include a Mediterranean grilled chicken flatbread, a grilled steak baguette and half-pound burgers. Sandwiches are served with house-made fries, house-made chips, sweet potato fries or seasonal fruit. The price range for sandwiches is $7 to $13.

Large plates, priced between $10 and $15, include a 6 oz. tenderloin filet served with roasted potatoes and fresh seasonal vegetables; veal cutlets served with house made pasta; grilled salmon oscar that includes crab claw meat and asparagus served with creamy hollandaise sauce.

Salads and soups are also available.

"I think I can bring some good and fresh ideas to the table, some different concept of food," Konda said. "Food that doesn't exist in Waukesha."

Chef Eric Weber, who will make the dishes from scratch, will lead this effort.

Konda recruited Weber from the University Club of Milwaukee where he served as an executive sous chef for a number of years. Konda knew Weber from when he was a server at the University Club.

Weber said Konda gave him a challenge for the menu and is excited for the community to try their offerings.

"We're going to impress some people," Weber said. "That's my goal."

For Konda and Sifnaios, their goal is making Meli a destination.

"This is our dream we want to make come true and I feel that Waukesha can definitely handle it," Sifnaios said. "We want to bring Waukesha on the map for a place to go out and have a good time."

At a glance

What: Meli

Address: 294 W. Main St., Waukesha

Fare: American/Mediterranean blend restaurant and bar

Hours for lunch and dinner: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday; (Saturday and Sunday brunch coming soon)

Phone: (262) 232-8175

Website: www.facebook.com/MeliWaukesha