The next time you go to Maria's Restaurant on Homestead Rd., look for a new face that will greet you and escort you to your table. The new face is that of Marylou Land, well-known in Lehigh, and the new owner of the restaurant that specializes in steaks, seafood, and pizza.
Land, who has background in management of the restaurant business for the past 30 years, comes from Majestic Golf Club where she was events chairman and food and beverage manager.
"Maria's has been around for a long time and is known for a nice place to eat and to carry guests for dinner," Land said. "I want to take the tradition to the next level."
"We have a nice restaurant in Lehigh with affordable prices and a lot of people say when they go out to dinner, they drive past Maria's and don't think about stopping here. They drive all the way into Fort Myers. It's because there has been no real face to the restaurant. Often owners of the eatery were unknown to the community and not active in local affairs, she said.
Maria's has been known by different names. While it is Maria's to most people, it has been called Maria's Steak and Pizza, and other names.
But Land is calling her new adventure into the restaurant business Maria's Restaurant & Lounge. It features pasta, steaks and seafood among other types of food on its menu. More menu changes are on the way.
It is located at 1129 Homestead Rd., in what has come to be known as the Winn-Dixie Shopping Center.
Land said there have been four owners over the past five years.
"Most people didn't know who owned the restaurant. There was no real face in the community. We're going to change that. I am going to be on hand for the most of the time to greet the people and many of them I will know," she said. "And those that I don't know, I hope to they will become friends."
Just last week, Maria's was the host of the Greater Lehigh Acres Chamber of Commerce After Hours, an event held monthly where Chamber members meet and enjoy each other's company.
Land said she began operating Maria's at the end of July and the ownership will be official in just a few weeks, while she said, they are working through the permit process.
"No problems there," she said. "It is just a process to go through."
As she is taking over the restaurant, she said there may be changes to the menu, without changing fine steaks, pasta and seafood.
"We're going to focus on the service, the fine food and the atmosphere," she continued.
There are around 20 employees who work at Maria's, all who call Lehigh Acres their home and Land has no plans to reduce the number of employees.
"We want people to know our prices are fair for Lehigh," Land said. "And now we are open again for the noontime crowd. The restaurant has been closed for a few months for lunch."
Maria's Restaurant & Lounge will be open from Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for lunch and then dinner. On Saturday's Maria's will be open at 4 p.m. for dinner. While closed now on Sundays, there is a possibility that Maria's will open Sunday afternoons and nights in the future.
"We have a great lounge and we will be celebrating Happy Hour every day with some great specials," she said.
"We want Maria's to become the hub of the community again and I think we can do that. It has a great reputation, but it needs to become known, like a new face, as I said before," she said.
"We're doing well at the restaurant, thanks to the community. We will be having some plans to work together with Majestic Golf Club for play and tournaments and then lunch or dinner here at Maria's," she said.
"Oh and we are going to start catering for events in the community, too."
Land said she wants Maria's to also become known as a big part of the community by providing luncheon meetings for smaller organizations.
"Smaller clubs will fit nicely here," Land said. "We can provide a space for them on a regular basis."
For more information, call the restaurant at 368-2020.
"People should call for reservations, too, especially at night and on Friday and Saturday nights," she said. The restaurant can seat 175 people and is one of the largest restaurants in Lehigh.
"We have great employees here who work as a team and we all want to serve the people who have forgotten that the restaurant exists. We can provide a great dining experience, not only for your families, but for corporate dinners and events like anniversaries and the like," she said.
"Now with lunch being served again, what a great place to come and enjoy the atmosphere and dine with your friends," she said.