Wausau Pilot & Review

Editor’s note: Business of the Week is a sponsored feature that shares the stories of locally-owned and operated businesses in the Wausau area, highlighting the products and services they offer and the ways they contribute to the metro area’s unique flavor. Learn how to feature your business by emailing christina@wausaupilotandreview.com.

This week’s featured business is West Side Tasty Treat – A Taste of Manila, 118 S. Third Ave., Wausau. For Wausau natives and long-time residents, West Side Tasty Treat has been a decades-long summer tradition with friendly employees serving up ice cream, hot dogs and other tasty fare on the city’s west side. But the new owners, Ed and Marjorie Giallombardo, put their own unique twist on the walk-up stand, bringing authentic, homemade Philippine cuisine to Wausau and adding live, family-friendly entertainment on the newly-built stage. Manager Ed Giallombardo has a separate full-time job as a software engineer, but handles the back-end paperwork and inventory. He’s also the front man for the “Westside Tasty Beats,” the house band that provides live music that draws people from throughout Marathon County. Chef Marjorie Giallombardo is the artist behind the incredibly scrumptious and innovative menu, hand-crafting each of the recipes in her native tradition. Among the offerings: Lechon Liempo – delicious pork belly bathed in a Filipino traditional marinade and fried until crisp, paired with a side of sweet vinegar dipping sauce. Or try the Chicken Pancit Bihon – a traditional birthday dish featuring pancit noodles tossed with chicken and sauteed with garlic, onions, soy sauce, vegetables and seasonings. These are just two of the features designed by Marjorie, who does most of the cooking while still finding time to raise two young children. Together, the couple is breathing new life into Wausau’s food scene, adding much-needed flair in a truly unique setting. Try the food just once – and we guarantee you’ll be back for more, again and again. And don’t worry – you can still get ice cream and hot dogs when you visit. Here, Ed describes the couple’s vision, passion for their business and community, and their plans for the future in Wausau.

The West Side Tasty Treat – A Taste of Manila team: (From left) Marco Woosencraft, Ashley Elsmo, Marj Giallombardo, Ed Giallombardo

Q: When was your business established, and what prompted you to start?

A: West Side Tasty Treat has been locally owned and operated since 1967. We re-opened with “A Taste of Manila” pop-up kitchen in November of 2020, re-adding Ice Cream, Hot Dogs and other traditional West Side Tasty Treat menu items in April of 2021. We always wanted to run a food truck as my wife loves cooking and gets lots of accolades for her cooking. Additionally, as there isn’t any Philippine cuisine nearby we wanted to bring that flavor to the Wausau Area.

Q: How did you choose the name of your business? What are you trying to convey?

Our goal is to provide delicious Philippine cuisine from Marj’s small little corner of the Philippines, halfway around the globe to Wausau. Manila being the most well-known city on her island, it kind of all fit. We use real Philippine ingredients whenever possible to provide the most authentic Philippine experience possible. On the other side of the house, we are trying to preserve as much of the history and menu of the original West Side Tasty Treat along with some new items and live entertainment.

Q: Tell us more. What are some of the foods you offer, and do you have entertainment?

We’ve got really two businesses in one: West Side Tasty Treat, which has traditional soft serve and treats along with Hot Dogs and other traditional American hot food, and A Taste of Manila: a full dinner service W-Sat providing Philippine cuisine and catering services. There is some crossover as things like the lumpia rolls and Pork Belly are available during our non-dinner times and the Tasty Treat Soft Serve and Treats are available during the dinner service. Alongside these two offerings we’ve also set up a 20 by 30 foot tent and stage to provide live entertainment. We have our house band “The Westside Tasty Beats” that will be performing regularly on Thursdays all summer from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., and we are hoping to book other special events as opportunities present themselves. Our goal really is to be the whole package: you can bring your family for dinner, dessert, and a show!

Craig Bushey, left, and Ed Giallonbardo perform July 8, 2021 at West Side Tasty Treat. Photo: Christina Kimball for Wausau Pilot & Review

Q: What makes your business unique? What sets you apart?

The food is definitely unique to the area, as far as I know we are the only ice cream shop providing live entertainment and a full dinner service. I can pretty safely say we may be the only ice cream/Philippine food combo in existence

Q: What do you love most about your job? What drew you to this work?

For me it’s about interacting with people, I love hearing the compliments we get from Marj’s food, especially people trying Philippine food for the first time. Also playing live for kids is just great, they have so much energy and aren’t afraid to get up and dance, a much different experience from performing for adults who may just view the music as a backdrop to whatever they are doing. And as a bonus the kids (usually) don’t have cell phones to stare at the whole time.

For Marj it’s all about the cooking, making great food that people love and appreciate. A kitchen firing on all cylinders is a beautiful thing, it certainly gets stressful at times but at the end of the day there is a certain satisfaction from a hard job done well.

Q: Have you changed and evolved over time? What’s different now?

Being brand new to running a kitchen and cooking at this volume and pace, our processes are constantly evolving. We got into a pretty good rhythm over the winter but then re-adding the soft serve and hot dog menu on top of the Philippine cuisine has certainly presented some challenges in such a small space. This first year is definitely a learning year and we don’t expect things to really stabilize until the fall when we can re-focus on the Philippine cuisine and then reassess our strategy for next spring.

Q: What challenges have you had to overcome? Basically, if you had it to do all over again, would you do anything differently?

Oh boy where to start… Opening a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic, a brand-new cuisine to an area, all while learning how to run a business and raise a family at the same time, not to mention my other full-time job. It’s been a roller-coaster and I’m still amazed we made it this far when I think about all the challenges we’ve faced and overcome. I’m very proud of my wife Marj, all the while she has been so strong, working non-stop to keep the food flowing. Stepping out of her comfort zone and boldly jumping into something like this is something to be proud of. Unless you’ve run a small business I’m not sure most people could appreciate how hard that is. And every parent knows the challenges raising 1- and 2-year-olds.

If we started over, there are certainly things I could have improved, purchased or not purchased this or that, focused more on signage or on advertising earlier, perhaps. Maybe we could have had our kids 12 years ago so they could help out! In all seriousness, I think we did it in the best order we could: focus on the food quality and delivery first, then work on the other things. If you don’t have a quality product nothing else really matters in the end.

Q: What are your hopes and dreams for the future? Where do you see your business in five years? 10?

On the “A Taste of Manila” side we are hoping to really build up the Philippine cuisine business, getting more lumpia rolls into more mouths, so to speak. Most people haven’t tried our cuisine so I think there is still a lot more room to grow there. Most of our business is repeat customers which is encouraging, but means we aren’t getting the word out as well as we could. Additionally, we’d like to do more catering including onsite events. We’ll be providing onsite food at the Wausau Paddle Pub Crawl coming up on July 31, so that should be a good test for that. As well we recently catered onsite for a live band at the 101 Pub nearby.

On the entertainment side, our hope is with the tent onsite and live music we can get more families into the “dinner and show” concept, it’s really a great deal and I’m not sure there is much like it anywhere else in the area. Having a mix of Philippine and American food options should also help so there is something for everyone. Currently, we’ve just got the hot dogs and fries but plan to re-add back Townline Market hamburgers, cheese curds, and onion rings soon.

Looking farther out, we hope to have a strong mobile presence, possibly a food truck or just a small trailer or cart where we can bring our food to things like The 400 Block and elsewhere. Right now, the primary focus has to be the main business but this is certainly on our minds.

The West Side Tasty Treat team. Photo: Christina Kimball/Wausau Pilot & Review

Connect with West Side Tasty Treat:

A Taste of Manila

118 S. Third Ave., Wausau

Visit their website here and follow them on Facebook here.

See their full menu and order online here. Orders available for dine-in or pickup service. Delivery available through EatStreet.