Many people discover Billy’s Italian Restaurant not with their eyes, but rather with their nose. After all, who expects to see a fine Italian eatery in an outlet mall anyway?
But, for the last 12 years now Billy’s Italian Restaurant has been filling the air with delicious aromas at the Outlets at Vicksburg, the patrons enjoying the interaction with the indomitable Billy Lieberman, the throwback atmosphere as well as the cuisine.
“I had doubts that moving to the outlet mall was going to work,” Lieberman admitted. “It has far surpassed any of my expectations.”
One thing Lieberman had when he launched Billy’s Italian Restaurant was experience. A native of Washington, D.C., he had a childhood Italian friend whose father owned a restaurant. Lieberman began working there, loved the work (Billy’s Italian Restaurant’s atmosphere and cuisine is largely based off this D.C. eatery) and eventually opened his own Italian restaurant in Washington called Lebo’s in 1976.
In the mid-1980s after approximately a decade of cooking, Lieberman got out of the restaurant business and entered the casino industry. From 1986-2001, he worked in gaming, first in Las Vegas, then Natchez and Vicksburg.
But, his “restaurant roots” ran deep, and in June 2001 opened Billy’s Italian Restaurant.
While establishing a restaurant in an outlet mall seems at least risky if not foolhardy, Lieberman has enjoyed some advantages. For instance, there is no competition, and a high volume of foot traffic passes by the restaurant’s door every day, augmenting his local, regular patrons with shoppers and out-of-towners who just stumble onto the eatery.
With no signage other than a small Billy’s Italian Restaurant transparency on the door shared by the mall office and the most simple of web sites, Lieberman proudly states that his restaurant today grosses more sales per square foot than any other tenant in the Outlets at Vicksburg.
The restaurant’s menu includes appetizers, salads, pasta creations, poboys, New York style and specialty pizzas. Most entrees are less than $10 except some combos that can easily feed two.
Asked about his key to success of the restaurant that employs eight workers, Lieberman said, “I am here every day. The people come in might not like me, but they want to see I’m cooking their food.”
Feeding off a seemingly inexhaustible energy, Lieberman is a blur, working the ovens and answering the phone, but he also takes a minute to walk out and interact with his patrons.
“That’s the only way I know to be successful,” Lieberman said. “I have gotten to know people, friends, many of whom now have children and I’m getting to know them, too.”
As far as future plans go, Lieberman said he just plans on continuing to work hard and concentrate on his mall-based restaurant.
“I’ve had people ask me if I am interested in franchising,” he said. “I’m 59 years old. If I was 29, maybe…”
Billy Italian Restaurant’s is located in Suite 112B in Outlets at Vicksburg. Its hours of operations are Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.; and, Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
For more information on Billy’s Italian Restaurant, call (601) 661-0707 or visit www. billysitalianrestaurant.com.