ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- A lot of people are planning on braving this winter weather for one last meal at a Rockford staple. Maria's Italian Cafe is closing for good after today.
Tonight is the final night we'll ever get to eat at Maria's and they're expecting to be jampacked this evening, weather permitting. Folks have been trying to get reservations for these last few weeks. It's a fitting send-off for an establishment that has been serving fine Italian cuisine to Rockford for over nine decades.
Owners say business has been steady, so a rough economy is not a factor in the closing. Instead, owner Joe Cason says things just aren't the same anymore and it's time to move on. Workers were prepping all morning long for the last day of operation here at the southwest side restaurant. Cason says he doens't know how many people have made reservations for tonight but that the book is absolutely filled.
"Without all the people this place really wouldn't be what it is. That's what makes it," said Joe Cason, Maria's owner. "All the different generations, individuals, personalities... that's what it's all about."
"It's very sad bacause I don't even think it's hit me yet. Honestly, I haven't even had time to think about it since we've been so busy, but now it's sad," said Anna Castanedea, a Maria's employee for 35 years.
If you're planning on coming down to Maria's and don't have a reservation, you're making a big mistake. They are simply not taking walk-ins. Cason says he's sad to shut Maria's down but is looking forward to what the future has in store -- particularly spending more time with his kids.
Cason says right now, this is it for Maria's. There are no plans to open up a new location.