ROCKFORD- As the sauce is cooked and the mostaccioli served restaurant goers react to the news that Maria’s Italian Café at 828 Cunningham Street will close their doors.
"Very depressed I wish they weren't, they have great food and there are a lot of memories in this place," said Maria’s Customer Milly Smith.
"Really great food, nice service, a lot of food you always go home with leftovers and just a great atmosphere," explained Maria’s Customer Bobby Mounts.
Maria’s Italian Café Owners John and Joe Cason say the tradition and history is what will be missed the most.
"We go back to the early teens, so almost one-hundred years old all the families that brought their children around here and now they're bringing their children, generations of a lot of families, a lot of history," said Owner John Cason.
Maria’s started as a grocery store in 1913 by Cason’s grandparents. The restaurant still holds the oldest liquor license in the Forest City, remaining on Cunningham Street for decades.
"Italian heritage that it helps to represent, this is the old Italian neighborhood we still have Saint Anthony's church, and we still have some Italian families, but most of all the warmth, and the camaraderie, and the welcoming spirit," said Maria’s Customer Valeri DeCastris.
That spirit has drawn famous musicians, politicians, athletes, and comedians. Former President George Bush Senior and even Michael Jordan have visited Maria’s for a bite to eat.
"We’ve been very fortunate with the community, we've been blessed. You know they've supported us through all these years so it's been a wonderful run," explained Owner Joe Cason.
Maria’s Italian Café is open Wednesday through Saturday. During the holidays the restaurant will be open on Tuesdays as well. Maria’s last day will be December 31st.
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