Living the Sweet Life

Zudija “Zudi” Maksutoski (owner and chef, Dolce Vita Restaurant) with his wife Nicole and daughter Farrah.
By Molly Milroy

“Working hard pays off. You’re not going to wake up to your dream come true [by] doing nothing,” says Zudija “Zudi” Maksutoski, owner and chef at Dolce Vita Restaurant. “You have to work hard and put the time in and put in the effort. Take the time to learn – nothing just happens overnight.” The restaurant, located in south Superior, opened in the spring of 2021. 

Maksutoski’s dream of opening a restaurant stems from his upbringing. “My family is from Macedonia, and they own different restaurants in the Wausau area. I knew the whole business aspect of it. It was a dream of mine to have my own kind of dinner restaurant,” he said. “They do more breakfast restaurants. I wanted to try something completely different.” 

Dolce Vita focuses on high-quality dinner plates. “We have traditional Northland favorites, but we also have different dishes. We wanted to bring in a family restaurant,” he explains. “We have prime rib on Saturday. We have a fish fry on Friday that a lot of people will come for, with fresh Canadian walleye.”

“I grew up learning from chefs and my family, and I took what
I learned and made it better.”
– Zudija “Zudi” Maksutoski, owner and chef, Dolce Vita Restaurant

Serving fresh food is paramount to Maksutoski. “Everything at our restaurant is literally chopped fresh. When you order an alfredo, or a pesto – or anything – it’s made fresh when you order,” he said. Some nights, Maksutoski will feature a special which highlights a Macedonian recipe. “I grew up learning from chefs and my family, and I took what I learned and made it better,” he said.

The restaurant employs seven full-time staff members. “I have a good team of staff that have been with me from the beginning,” Maksutoski said. Front-of-house manager Penny Samuelson enjoys the camaraderie at the establishment. “I think the reason I like working there the most is it’s not a corporate business. It’s family-run,” she said. “We’re a small staff. We’re all very close.” Audrey Zebott, a server at the restaurant, agrees: “I love the people I work with. It feels like a family.”

One of the things Maksutoski enjoys about Dolce Vita is being a part of the community. “I really want to take care of our guests. I don’t consider them customers. I like to get to know people’s names and have a more family-friendly place,” he said. Zebott enjoys the community aspect, as well. “I love all of the different people I meet every day,” she said.

Marsha Wick, a resident of the Village of Superior, is a frequent patron of Dolce Vita. “It’s a comfortable atmosphere. You feel welcome and they know our name when we come in,” she said. “The food is always good. The owner always comes out and visits, so it makes you feel special.”

As the owner, Maksutoski oversees inventory, ordering products and meeting with distributors. “I’m there a lot. Even when we’re closed, I’m still there. I don’t leave,” he said, with a laugh. His staff recognizes the hard work. “Zudi is one of the most hardworking people I know,” Zebott said.

“It’s a comfortable atmosphere, you feel welcome and they know our name when we come in. The food is always good. The owner always comes out and visits, so it makes you feel special.” – Marsha Wick, Dolce Vita patron

As the restaurant grew, Maksutoski expanded to include a larger selection of wines to pair with the dinner meals. “We have a whole selection of wines and beers.” he said. “We had more requests for more types of wines, and we expanded. We have twelve different kinds of wines available.” 

Dolce Vita serves breakfast on the weekends, as well. “No one was serving breakfast in this area,” he said, explaining that those in south Superior would have to drive downtown or to Itasca for breakfast. “So we did expand [into] breakfast for the weekends, just to give that extra option.”  

Along with the full-time restaurant operation, Maksutoski offers some catering with Dolce Vita. “I have done catering for Essentia, personal parties at home and Christmas parties at the restaurant,” he said.

This winter, patrons will be able to experience a special night out at Dolce Vita with a five-course dinner. “We are planning our first reservation-only five-course dinner on January 2,” Samuelson said. “It’s something we have never done. If it’s successful, we are going to offer it once a month.” 

Maksutoski said that “It gives people an opportunity to try a different experience. The five-course meal will include bruschetta, a strawberry dinner salad, pan-seared swordfish, sirloin steak and deep-fried cheesecake.” The courses will be paired with wines, as well. Maksutoski hopes to offer the event monthly, on a day when the restaurant is normally closed, allowing guests a leisurely night of good food and company. 

“I think the reason I like working there the most is it’s not a corporate business. It’s family-run. We’re a small staff. We’re all very close.”
– Penny Samuelson, front-of-house manager, Dolce Vita Restaurant

Dolce Vita has been serving customers for almost two years now, and, like every business, there have been challenges. One challenge Maksutoski has faced is similar to what other restaurant owners are seeing: inflation. “The market is constantly changing,” he said, explaining that all restaurant owners are faced with the same obstacle. “It’s something we can’t control with our prices.”

That doesn’t stop Maksutoski and his team from moving forward. “I didn’t open the restaurant for money. It’s a passion for me to do this,” he said. “It’s good to represent a small business owner in Superior,” Zebott added.

As for the Italian name? “Dolce Vita” means “the sweet life,” Maksutoski said. “I came up with the name during COVID, as a reminder that life is sweet.” For more information, hours and specials, visit their Facebook: DolceVitaRestaurant.LLC. PS

Molly Milroy is a Northland-based writer.