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Today's Family Magazine

LaMalfa celebrates 60 years through reinvention

The Easter chapel set up in anticipation of families for Easter brunch.

By Stacy Turner

LaMalfa, the full-service event center in Mentor, has been a fixture in the local community for 60 years.  Martin LaMalfa has been at the helm for 25 years, though it’s been a fixture in his life much longer.  In fact, the business was incorporated the year he was born. 

When his father Michael returned from serving in the Korean War, he and his wife Loretta dreamed of sharing their Sicilian heritage with their community.  In 1963, they made their first foray into the hospitality industry with Vine Beverage. In 1970, Vine Beverage moved to Eastlake and began providing party trays to homes and local party centers. In 1974, the business expanded, reinventing itself as the Vine Party Center. 

Martin LaMalfa grew up washing dishes and setting up for events, learning the business from the ground up.  And the business grew due to hard work, his father’s expertise in cooking and the recipes passed down from LaMalfa’s Italian grandmothers.  In 1989, the LaMalfa Party Center opened for business on Heisley Road in Mentor, and it has experienced many changes throughout the decades.

As smaller banquet centers came and went, LaMalfa has met the challenges of adapting to keep up with the changing times. 

“Our concept is unique because we have a full-service banquet hall connected to a midlevel franchise hotel,” LaMalfa explained. 

That hotel, a Holiday Inn Express, opened in 1998 to provide wedding guests and event-goers with convenient, quality lodging connected to the banquet hall.  In 2019 the hotel was renovated, creating 83 all-suite units as a Wingate by Wyndham.  According to LaMalfa, 2019 was the company’s best year, hosting over 100 weddings, 70 fundraisers, and 300 corporate events. 

In 2020, however, LaMalfa struggled like everyone else through the pandemic.  Although considered an essential business, people avoided hosting events even though the facility could accommodate them with the required safe distance protocols.  So LaMalfa pivoted, opening an outdoor patio to allow people to dine in the fresh air.  And while it hasn’t always been easy, LaMalfa credits the strong work ethic learned from his parents, coupled with flexibility, to moving forward in the ever-changing hospitality industry. 

Throughout it all, one thing has remained constant at LaMalfa -- exceptional food is still at the heart of the business.  “The scratch kitchen still follows my grandmother’s recipes,” LaMalfa noted, “where nothing is canned, frozen, or fried.”

The difference keeps satisfied guests coming back.

The patio is often sold out, especially during live music events, and LaMalfa’s popular Easter and Mother’s Day brunches are hot ticket items, as well.  Last Easter, 700 people enjoyed the buffet and festivities, while 750 dined at LaMalfa on Mother’s Day. 

In 2022 a Lenten Italian seafood buffet was introduced as a healthy alternative to the neighborhood fish fry and has grown from 1,800 guests that first season to an expected number of nearly 3,000 this Lenten season. 

The seafood buffet takes place every Friday in March and the Easter buffet, complete with baskets for kids and the largest Easter egg hunt in Lake County, is scheduled on Sunday, March 31.  Both events include admission to the LaMalfa Family Fun Center, a new addition that features a bounce house, inflatable ax throwing, life-sized games, and more.  

Upcoming concerts include the “Kenny and Dolly Tribute” on April 24 and “Always Shania,” a Shania Twain tribute, on May 16.  

For more info and tickets to all their events, visit

The key to their success, according to Martin LaMalfa, is “looking to the future, staying positive and adapting to change,” –– things LaMalfa has embodied since its start. 

LaMalfa is located at 5783 Heisley Road in Mentor.  For more information visit or call (440) 357-0384.