The historic Pizza Cottage in Roselle closed its doors Sunday after more than 50 years in business.
Owner Tim Grasso of Hanover Park initially expected to stay open for a few more months.
But he changed his mind last week. The cozy museum-like pizzeria, which has been a popular fixture in Roselle since it opened its doors in October 1956, closed its doors to the public on Sunday.
Though Grasso talked about staying open until April, he eventually decided against signing a lease with the developer when he sold the building.
"Nobody is forcing me out," said Grasso, who bought the restaurant from Ken and Dolores Neumann in 1990. "I grabbed the baton from the previous owner and I ran the race. Now I'm finishing the race."
Grasso said he intended to sell the restaurant -- famous for its secret pasta sauce and brick ovens -- for some time now. This year, opportunity knocked.
"It was one of those offers that I couldn't refuse," Grasso said. "I kind of wish I could have kept on going here, but opportunity only knocks once."
Grasso said he's been talking to an investment group that's interested in buying the Pizza Cottage name, some of its recipes and possibly opening a place in downtown Roselle. But nothing is concrete.
In the meantime, a developer has pitched a preliminary concept to the village about redeveloping that block of Irving Park Road, east of the auto repair shop to the vacant lot before Prospect Avenue.
Roselle Mayor Gayle Smolinski said the concept includes a building with retail shops on the first floor and office condos on the second floor. But a proposal has not even appeared before the planning and zoning commission, she said.
As for the pizzeria, Smolinski said it will be greatly missed.
"I just think it's a symbol of our past," she said. "It's always sad to see a landmark go. It's one of those unique businesses in town that you just can't duplicate."
The historical society owns a number of photographs of the original restaurant.
Joan Beauprez, who has been frequenting the pizzeria since 1964 and volunteers at the Roselle Historical Society, called it one of Roselle's historical attractions.
"We'll miss it dearly," she said, adding that she has three children who have worked at the pizza cottage at some point in their lives. "It's such a part of our community."
It's a place where regulars socialize and gossip. They love it because they know what to expect.
They knew that every St. Valentine's Day, there were heart-shaped pizzas. On Christmas Eve, the entire restaurant was illuminated by candles. And after every meal, they could expect a Tootsie Roll. They also know legends about the pizza that rests buried under four feet of concrete under one of the tables.
"I've worked here when I was 15 years old," Grasso said. "It's been a great business and I've had a great time here."
Grasso has donated a few historical items to the Roselle History Museum. He's also selling some antique furniture, various souvenirs, chairs, patio tables and silverware. Patrons have until Dec. 16 to drop by the restaurant and make an offer.