The popular Manchester eatery, Sunset Family Restaurant was founded by Macedonian immigrant Dino Ismaili in 2011. Having lived in the United States for over 40 years, Ismaili’s first restaurant was a Country Kitchen in Sterling, Ill., before bringing himself and his family to eastern Iowa.
Penka Ismaili, Dino’s son and manager of Sunset Family Restaurant, said, “When my dad moved here, he started working in a restaurant as a busboy, dishwasher and then as a cook. I think he worked for about seven to 10 years in the kitchen before he got started with the restaurant business. He has been in the States for over 40 years, but he used to live in the Schaumburg area of Illinois by Chicago. In 1996, he came to Dyersville and had a restaurant there called Dyersville Family Restaurant. About 10 years ago, we came here to Manchester. My dad found this place and talked to the landlord, so we took it over. For me personally, my brother, sister and mom came here in 1999.”
According to Ismaili, the restaurant is run by himself, his father, brother, sister and sister-in-law. While initially not wanting to join the family business, Ismaili has found a love for it and the Manchester community.
“I love it,” he said. “I actually went to college because I didn’t want to be in the restaurant business. It’s a lot of hours, it’s crazy hours, but here I am still in the restaurant business with my family. I enjoy meeting new people every single day.”
As with most businesses, Sunset Family Restaurant was hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic. While currently short-handed, it has gotten back on its feet thanks to community support.
Ismaili said, “At this time, with COVID-19 especially, we’re very short on help so we’re working 60-80 hours a week. When they first shut us down, we thought it was going to be only for a few weeks, and then it ended up being almost two months before we reopened at 50%. The business wasn’t even half where it was, so it scared us whether we were going to make it through this, but we did. Right now business is doing really good, it’s probably better than it was before COVID-19. It’s hard getting help, but that’s kind of coming along too now. We’re getting a few more applications.”
While the restaurant serves a wide variety of dishes, Ismaili said they are best known for their early breakfast meals.
“We’re mostly known for breakfast,” he said. “We don’t have any special dish, we just do cod, beef, chicken strips, burgers, a little bit of everything, but we’re mostly known for breakfast. My dad turned 66 and just retired, but he still helps us a bit for a few hours in the morning here and there. He gets bored at home so he comes in when we open at 5 a.m. and helps us a bit until 7 a.m.”
Ismaili wishes to extend his gratitude to the people of Manchester for their devoted patronage and understanding as the restaurant continues to recover from the lockdowns.
“I love this town. Overall the people are very nice and supportive. I love our regulars. I want to say we easily have 30-50 regulars who come here every single day. I want to say thank you to the town, especially with COVID-19 leaving us shorthanded on help these days, most of the customers have been very supportive and patient and I really appreciate that.”