San Francisco's Sausage Factory celebrates its 50th anniversary after fears it could close

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The chefs at The Sausage Factory in San Francisco serve up a plate of ravioli as the restaurant prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary. (KGO)

Fifty years is an anniversary that almost did not happen for The Sausage Factory.

"Recently the restaurant came on hard times," said owner Mario Azzolino.

The restaurant in San Francisco's Castro District opened in 1968, on the site of an old sausage factory.

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Mario's uncle, Tony Azzolino, started working there in 1972 as a prep cook. He eventually moved his way up and in 1979 he bought the business and a few years later he purchased the entire building.

But last year, the elder Azzolino decided to retired and put everything up for sale.

Customers feared developers would gobble up the prime real estate, close the restaurant and tear down the building, which was built in the mid 1880s.

But Tony Azzolino's nephew stepped in. He talked his uncle into letting him take over the restaurant.

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Mario Azzolino closed the eatery for a few weeks to give it a slight makeover, but he didn't want to do away with the old-school charm, or the classic Italian-American menu.
The new owner calls it a classic "red sauce joint".

"Definitely Italian comfort food. Kind of what a lot of Italians built their American dreams on. It's those old-school Chicken Parmigiana and Fettuccini Alfredo."

Most of the staff remained. Many have worked at The Sausage Factory for well over 20 or 30 years.

Mario is not trying to hold back time. He understands that businesses must evolve. But he does not want to revamp the menu to make it more appealing to the Instagram crowd.

"It's probably our slightly large portions that is going to make it on Instagram. But I would prefer to see all the pictures of this restaurant be of people eating together. The food is delicious. But it is made for your stomach."

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