DeFazio’s Italian restaurant in Wichita has closed permanently

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Pete DeFazio was 23-year-old Angelo’s manager in 1982 when he decided to go it alone.

On September 2 of the same year, he opened DeFazio’s in a former Angelo’s space at 2706 N. Amidon, and over the next 39 years, he developed a loyal following who loved his Wichi-Italian pasta dishes, pizzas and its Italian salad with marinated eggplants.

But on Sunday, DeFazio served his last sausage manicotti. He announced via Facebook on Wednesday night that his Italian restaurant – a revered local favorite – was permanently closed.

Reached home on Wednesday night, DeFazio, 62, said two factors motivated his decision. The main thing: his legs. He postponed knee replacement surgery for five years and has been running his restaurant in pain for several years.

The other factor, he said, is his inability to find staff. If he could have hired enough people to run the restaurant while he was having surgery and recovering, it might have worked. But recently he hasn’t been able to keep a reliable kitchen helper.

“I hate to do it, but I look back and am proud of what my employees and I have done over the past 40 years,” he said. “It’s a viable business. It just has to do with my well-being.

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Pete DeFazio opened DeFazio’s in 1982. JAIME OPPENHEIMER

DeFazio said he made his decision Monday morning when he woke up and “could barely walk.” He informed his staff of around 25 people and his family and then shared the news with his clients on social media on Wednesday evening.

The reaction was swift and filled with grief. DeFazio’s Facebook post on the shutdown drew hundreds of comments in less than an hour.

“We grew up with family lunches and dinners there, and we repeated our marriage to you almost 12 years ago. Heartbroken, but we hope you enjoy your retirement to the fullest, ”wrote a client.

“I wish I could have celebrated one last time,” wrote another.

DeFazio said he would like to sell the restaurant as a whole. For the right offer, someone might have the building, the equipment, and the recipes. He owns the entire strip center that owns DeFazio and is also interested in selling it, he said.

However, a buyer could not keep the name of DeFazio.

“I would like them to find a new name,” he said.

He plans to have surgery, rest and enjoy his new 6-month-old granddaughter, he said.

He knows his customers are disappointed, and that’s the hard part, he says. But it became clear to him this week that the time had come to move on.

“I made my life out of it,” he says. “Now I want my life to be my family and my granddaughter.”

This story was originally published 6 October 2021 7:32 pm.

Denise Neil has been covering dining and entertainment since 1997. Her Dining with Denise Facebook page is the go-to place for diners for local restaurant information. She is a regular judge at local culinary competitions and speaks to groups across Wichita about catering.

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