By Ken and Angie Locke
If “family” has meaning and importance to you, you will understand why D’Mario’s in Cheney has been so successful.
Even though the Albers family is the driving force behind the restaurant and bowling alley, it was clear to us that everyone who works there is a part of one big, special family. Originally bought and built by Joe Albers back in the 1960s, Joe’s vision was to serve the people of both Cheney and Garden Plain, as well as the many other towns nearby. He deliberately built the establishment right next to Old Highway 54 in hopes of satisfying the growling stomachs of locals and travelers alike.
Angie and I love to find places like this. Finding them is an experience that heightens our love of Kansas during a few of our free weekend hours. I hail from Hastings, Neb., and Angie is influenced most by her time in Salina, Kan., both small towns (back then, anyway).
When we entered D’Mario’s, we immediately felt welcomed by Luella Haley, who’s worked there 23 years. Her understated casual way made her the perfect hostess. After talking us through the menu, professionally painted on the wall, we selected a few of their signature dishes. We only ordered a little too much, which, in my opinion, is just right. They have 10 different topping combinations to their pizza, and those come in four sizes. They are happy to make a custom-topped pizza for you as well.
We got a large pizza with half The Vegetarian and half The Slam Dunk, which is, well let’s just say, LOTS of meat. The pizza crust was crisp and sweet, with just the right amount of corn meal on the bottom for texture. We also ordered one of their perfectly toasted ham and cheese sandwiches. Bottomless drinks and the large order of tots filled our table top and gave us plenty of leftovers to take home with us.
Saturday around noon is a busy time for D’Mario’s. There was a steady stream of sit-in and to-go orders to fill. A big family get-together took place a few tables down, a family of four enjoyed a pizza pie, and a laughing group of teenage girls came in and went straight to the third bowling lane for a rowdy time. While we sat, numerous drivers pulled up, dashed in for their waiting orders, and dashed back out to get home while the chow was still hot.
As we headed to sit, our eyes were drawn to the tables with inlaid wood designs covered by polyurethane. Although they looked like pieces of bowling alley for tables, it turns out it was a coincidence. Still, it showed the buying instincts of the owners, who found the tables and saw they were perfect for their place. The whole restaurant was neatly painted, clean, well-lit, and inviting.
In a recent remodel, D’Mario’s doubled the general eating space and added private party space. They added two doors to private rooms, one room 7 and one room 10 – a witty reference to that bane of bowlers everywhere, the 7-10 split. Each room holds about 30 people and the fancy room divider door can be retracted (into the ceiling) to make one large room. This room is perfect for parties or meetings, and is fully equipped with Internet access and big screens for TV or presentations. One of their ideas is to host TV sporting events, like football games, Final Four parties, or mixed martial arts fight nights.
The bowling alleys have state-of-the-art equipment from Brunswick. Brunswick insisted that D’Mario’s had a trained equipment specialist on premises, so Jeff Albers attended their training program. Jeff continues to maintain the equipment and help with a variety of family enterprises, not the least of which is the amazing line of Art & Mary’s potato chips. (As a side note, if you haven’t eaten a whole bag of their Jalapeno chips, you just plain haven’t lived – promise yourself to get right on that). D’Mario’s hosts bowling leagues on Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday nights, and also has a Wednesday daytime league.
D’Mario’s is located at 1635 Cheney Road. Contact them at 316-542-3126 with your questions about the bowling leagues or ordering from the menu. Their hours are Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
We truly appreciate the time we spent at D’Mario’s. Luella felt like a favorite aunt, you know, the one you’ve known a long time. Jeff Albers, on his way through the restaurant on an errand, spent at least 15 minutes talking with us about the restaurant, the family, the Art and Mary’s chip business (seriously - go get some), and both the importance of and his love for his family. We know it’s been a successful outing when we come away richer for it.