Fior d'Italia closes its doors after 126 years

May 23, 2012 5:14:22 PM PDT
Fior d'Italia claims to be the oldest Italian restaurant in the United States and Monday night it closed after being in business for 126 years. Two things added to the restaurant's demise: the economy and its location.

"The restaurant to me was like a wife and she decided to divorce me the other night," said Gianni Audieri.

Gianni has been Fior d'Italia's chef since 1982. The restaurant opened in 1886 by the Delmonte family as a bordello. While the restaurant was moved several times, North Beach was always its home. For 50 years it was located here just across Washington Square Park.

But a fire forced the owners to find another location, reopening in 2005 on Mason Street. It was not an ideal location and in 2008 when the economy went south, business suffered.

"I do the books so I saw it coming, but we never really thought it would end," said Trudy Audieri, Fior d'Italia's bookkeeper.

Trudy is Gianni's wife. They met at the restaurant and at one point were part owners.

Long time North Beach residents say the food was good and the memories plentiful.

"It's old school, but great food. It's a warm feeling being in a restaurant from start to finish," said customer Charles Tynes.

And Gianni is certain this was, until last night, America's oldest Italian restaurant.

"The Italians immigrated to California 50 years earlier than they did back east," said Gianni.

While there were many goodbyes, there is already talk of opening another restaurant soon.

"I've been in this business since I was 16 and a half years old, now I am 75. Do I retire? No won't," said Gianni.

We're told that Philadelphia has the oldest Italian restaurant owned by the same family, named Ralphs. But Gianni says Fior d'Italia is still older than Ralph's. Manhattan has Barbetta, the oldest in New York City, but again Gianni says Fior d'Italia was the grand daddy of them all.


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