Beloved Arlington Restaurant Closes

The Alpine Restaurant is changing owners

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    NBCWashington.com
    Ermanno Tonizzo

    After more than four decades, a beloved Arlington, Va., restaurant is closing and preparing for new ownership.

    Ermanno Tonizzo (cue joyful Italian music now) came to the States from Italy and opened the doors to the Alpine Restaurant 43 years ago. Since then, the Italian restaurant off of Lee Highway has served meals to presidents, celebrities, and thousands of hungry customers. His daughter, Sonia Short, announced the closure -- with praise -- in a press release. The last line read, "My father, an Italian immigrant, made it in the U.S. and we are so proud of him."

    The restaurant is not closing for good, however. Tonizzo said tough economic times is one of the reasons why he has decided to transfer the restaurant to new owners. "One chef retired, then the other chef retired ... so for the last three-and-a-half years I have been alone to keep it going until today," he said.

    While the ownership will change, the restaurant's name will remain the same. 

    Like pizza toppings, the pictures of visiting celebrities and politicians have been carefully placed along restaurant walls to give the place a kick. Tonizzo points to one of the pictures where he is standing alongside former Redskins coach Joe Gibbs. The picture apparently captures a "once upon a time" love affair between the Redskins and Tonizzo.

    "We were together all the time since '81 ... when he took over," he said. They [Redskins] were all coming here after the games. I used to be on the sidelines with them all the time. This was a big, big thing for me."

    Tonizzo claims the relationship came to an end after 17 years when owner Dan Snyder took over.

    After years of great memories, successfully plating thousands of meals and waking every day to the excitement of running a popular restaurant, Tonizzo says it is time to retire to his family.

    "My wife always says, 'I was married 47 years and I never see my husband, so maybe now I can see him!'" Tonizzo said. 

    The longtime restaurateur and his wife now plan on retiring to his home in Bryce Mountain in Shenandoah County. All the golfing and skiing in the world, however, don't appear to come close to Tonizzo's real passion.

    "I'll miss the people," he said.  "When you've been here so long this is your house for 43-and-a-half years. It's going to be tough to just ... retire."