Emily’s Cafe: 36 Years of Goodness

Every day for the past 36 years, Emily Benincasa has gone from table to table greeting each guest dining in her namesake restaurant, Emily’s F&M Café. It’s their beloved customers that have kept Emily and her husband, Elliott, going all of these years. In fact, Emily works seven days a week just so she can say hello to the once strangers, now friends, that visit her restaurant. You know you’ve ‘arrived’ in Victory the first time Emily recognizes you as a returning customer.

“She is the backbone of this place,” Elliott says of his wife.

Emily immigrated to the United States from Italy in 1956. For her first 25 years here, she worked for other restaurants and business owners, but dreamed of one day opening her own place. Eventually, Emily’s dream became a reality. 1982, she and Elliott bought the café on 44th and Oliver from sisters, Florence and Millie. The F&M in the café’s name is homage to its previous owners.

Emily and Elliott have been serving up delicious homestyle breakfasts and lunches almost every day since they opened. In the early years, the restaurant was also open for dinner, but eventually the 17 hour work days took a toll and the couple instead focused on the café concept that we know today. The recipes are Emily’s own and customers’ favorites include the meatloaf and hot roast beef sandwich and the spaghetti and lasagna with Emily’s secret sauce.

Emily poses with a student artist.

When asked what they’re most proud of, the Benincasas point to their spirit of giving. If a customer is short on cash for their bill, or looks like they haven’t had a good meal in a while, Emily doesn’t hesitate to waive the charge or make up the difference. No one goes hungry when the Benincasas are around. The family is also proud of their more recent partnership with Loring Community School. Each month, artwork by Loring students is displayed on the café walls. Each youth artist gets a $5 gift certificate for participating in the pop-up gallery. “The kids love it,” says long-time server Cathy Di Maio, “they want to sit under their picture while they eat.”

The time has come for the Benincasas to hand off the café to new owners. The restaurant is for sale and once sold, Emily and Elliott will embrace retirement. Emily looks forward to spending more time with family and relaxing, and will leave behind a legacy of generosity and hospitality. “It takes a lot of hard work,” she says of owning her own business, “but there’s nothing like it.”

The Benincasas in the early years.

Emily’s F&M Café is open daily from 7AM-2PM. The café will be open until a new owner is found. If you or someone you know is interested in purchasing the restaurant, please contact Emily or Elliott at +1 (612) 522-8975. Up to $15,000 in grant funds are available through ViNA and the City of Minneapolis for the new owners to make the space their own.

To hear the Benincasa’s immigration story, check out the Immigrants in America podcast.

10 thoughts on “Emily’s Cafe: 36 Years of Goodness”

  1. Best wishes on your retirement elliot and emiley eat there back when I worked for the mpls park board Elliot my brother Larry Pikala worked with you at the Star. best wishes

  2. Thank you Emily & Elliot for the many years you have enhanced the community. Although I haven’t lived in the area, I have managed to stop in when I’ve been close. Your food was delicious and all of you were friendly making a wonderful experience. You have earned your retirement, enjoy it. You will be missed. I’ll try to get over there before you retire. Thanks again!

  3. Em we love you.. My Em and I love you. My old memories of going there over the past 37 yrs have been awesome.. My Dad Ed went to school with Elliotts Brother, had a connection.. We will miss you so.. We will try to make it there one more time, Money is tight. We wish u all the best, you are the sweetest couple ever. Hugs.. Brenda Koehler..

  4. Congratulations on your 36 years! Miss you two. You have some awesome waitresses. Oh and your customers are the bomb. Miss them two. Best wishes have a great retirement hope you find a buyer. Dennis DuErr

  5. Tanya Baumgardner

    I have eaten there many times. Love it. Brought my kids there when they were little..and now grown adults we still go eat there sometimes. Always great food and service. Will be missed. Enjoy retirement! ?

  6. My Grandma, Florence was the F in F & M and her sister, my great Aunt Millie was the M!
    Have grown up coming here many times for breakfast with my family. So proud that Emily kept the F&M namesake for so many years in honor of my family! Xoxo

  7. Claudia and Francesca

    Thank you Emily and Elliot for your hard work strengthen the community. I’ve been coming here to Emily’s Cafe in 2008. My daughter loves to come here just so she can greet Emily. We will miss you have a happy retirement??

  8. Went to the restaurant several times during a remodeling job I was doing in the area. The food was delicious and the staff and Family greeting was great.
    A real treat in today’s restaurant chain business model. Just makes you want to come back again and again.

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