'Packed with flavor:' Cuban café opens in Franklin amid pandemic

Opening up a restaurant is no easy take -- and it is even more of an uphill battle trying to do so during a pandemic. But after a lot of hard work, a new Cuban café has opened in the City of Franklin -- and they have been selling out of food every night.

A typical day for restaurant owner Angelina Maholias, or Chef Angelina as she is better known, starts at 5 a.m. and ends around midnight. But you will not hear her complain.

"I'm going through 100 to 120 pounds of pork a day, 40 pounds of chicken, and about 50 pounds of beef," said Chef Angelina.

Chef Angelina Maholias

Chef Angelina Maholias

The chef's latest venture, Havana Café in Franklin near 76th and Rawson, is selling out every night since it opened two weeks ago.

"It gives me goosebumps to think about it because Chef Angelina has been through so much," said Chad Millard, a contractor for Havana Café.

Havana Café

Havana Café

Chef Angelina cooks from the heart. 

"I don't have things written down. That's how I learned how to cook," the chef said.

Her menu is rare in Wisconsin -- and her Cuban sandwich is a best-seller.

"It's packed with flavor," Chef Angelina said.

Havana Café

Still, with two decades of experience under her belt, Chef Angelina said opening up this operation was truly an uphill battle.

"We were almost halfway done with the kitchen and then the pandemic hit," the chef said.

After investing thousands of dollars to turn an old pizzeria into a café, the project was stalled for months.

Havana Café

Havana Café

"There was a good five months that went by while we waited to see what we can do," Millard said.

Plenty of adjustments were made. 

Havana Café

"An open concept, so that everybody can see what is going on and how clean it is," Millard said.

Chef Angelina held on to her faith and kept moving forward.

"I'm so excited for something new," said Betsy Flasch, a customer.

Patrons are clearly glad that Chef Angelina persevered.

"The community as a whole love her," Millard said.

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Havana Café

The chef's advice in these trying times?

"Don't give up," Chef Angelina said.

Chef Angelina said she is grateful to the countless people that helped her make the restaurant possible. Havana Café is open Tuesdays through Saturdays.

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