Meet Your Good Neighbor: Sofra Family Bistro


Don’t bother asking Gjyner “Gerry” Lumani for his qebap recipe.

The delicious Albanian sausage served by his restaurant, Sofra Family Bistro, is made from scratch the traditional way—by hand. The recipe is guarded, as carefully as qebap recipes are in the old country.

“I won’t give it to anybody,” said Lumani, an Albanian native. “They ask me, I say no.”

His closely guarded qebap is a treasure worth discovering in downtown Middleton. Lumani and his wife Zamira have operated a restaurant here since 1991 – they also co-own Villa Dolce, a nearby Italian restaurant. Sofra Family Bistro was originally named Bavaria Family Restaurant but in 2008, the Lumanis added new Albanian items to the menu and renamed the restaurant Sofra Family Bistro.

“Sofra means ‘family table,’” Zamira Lumani said. “We are very family-oriented so it made sense.”

The restaurant features breakfast items like omelets, crepes and Turkish coffee, and lunch items include sandwiches, burgers and wraps. In addition to qebap, the menu also includes international offerings like chicken Apolonia, lamb gyros, and Mediterranean-spiced beef skewers.

“All of our food is homemade,” Zamira said. “We take great pride in our food and our quality of food.”

The restaurant has a loyal following, including customers who have been coming to Sofra for years.

“They mean a lot to us–they mean the world to us,” Zamira said of their customers. “We like to think we treat them like family and they treat us like family.”

The qebap is a big draw, attracting customers from Chicago and beyond.

Gjyner said that in his native Albania, restaurants that serve qebap are local institutions, often operated by the same family for six or seven generations. These restaurants guard their recipes closely and when Lumani sought to add qebap to Sofra’s menu, he had no family recipe to draw from.

He wasn’t going to find this recipe in a cookbook or on the Internet, but he grew up with this delicacy – the recipe was in his heart, he just had to develop the right mix of ingredients. As Gjyner describes it, making qebap is as much an art as it is a science. So, he experimented with different sources of ingredients and blends until one day, he had it.

“Everything has to be perfect,” he said.

About Sofra Family Bistro

7457 Elmwood Ave, Middleton, WI 53562

(608) 836-6614

Hours: daily, 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Carry out service is available as well as delivery via EatStreet. Indoor and outdoor dining are also available. Special catering and business group menu packages are available–call the restaurant to inquire.