Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Nov. 22, 1999

Jonio's now open in Lester Prairie

By Luis Puga

Pizza aficionados have a new place for a slice of pie in Lester Prairie.

Jonio's, owned by Joni and Doug Olson, opened its doors in late October, offering pizzas, chicken, and more.

The restaurant has been a welcome addition to the town by most estimates.

Despite other restaurants at the location in the past, Doug Olson believes that the other establishiments failed because they concentrated on serving alcohol rather than catering to families.

Therefore, Jonio's, while serving non-intoxicating beer and wine, aims at having families in for a sit-down meal.

Doug admits the location, formerly occupied by Pasttimes, had a diminished reputation, however, that was fine with them since it enabled them to get a good price on the property.

This is not the first time the Olsons have had a restaurant. In fact, this is not the first Jonio's.

The Olsons had a Jonio's restuaruants in Gaylord, Winthrop, and Sleepy Eye, the last one closing in April. Joni added that former customers still look them up from some of the older Jonio's.

The restaurant business being a demanding vocation, the Olsons thought of looking for regular jobs rather than owning another Jonio's.

However, they changed their mind when they saw the demand and location for such a restaurant in Lester Prairie.

They took a leisurely three months to set up the place in order to have some time to themselves and plan for the new Jonio's.

After a bit of redecorating, menu planning, pizza ovens, and a bit of a plumbing problems that the smiles on their faces indicate was more than a bit, they opened their doors.

Joni said it was fun to set up and plan the menu. She added that the couple bought much of their necessities at auctions.

Both agree it was more fun to see the people come pouring into the new restaurant, making them feel very welcomed in Lester Prairie.

That fun spirit can be seen around the restaurant. On the wall, in the main dining area are a collection of autographed photos which Doug has collected over the years.

He jokes that he'll try to get Jesse Ventura's autograph, but that the governor will probably charge him $150 for the use of the name.

The menu indicates the owners' favorite pizza. The Olsons said they have traveled around Minnesota to get different ideas for pizzas, but if you cannot decide between the "Carnivore Classic," or the "German Pizza Achtung," you might opt for Duggio's or Jonio's favorite.

Doug notes that the "-io's" at the end of all the names are to give the restaurant a "pseudo Italian feeling."

Having been in the restaurant business since 1988, the Olsons probably have a pretty good sense of how to operate a pizza place.

Doug notes that in that time they've seen some strange requests. People have brought in their own toppings, from goat cheese to anchovies, to satisfy their tastes.

He said some of the kinks still have to be worked out. At this time, they're only delivering to Lester Prairie, but plan on expanding their delivery area.

Also, a downstairs meeting room will be expanded into a larger dining area, he added.

Overall, the Olsons feel they have hit on the winning formula. As Olson said, "The restaurant is 90 percent food, 10 percent alcohol." He hopes this will encourage families to come for dinner.

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