DUBLIN, Ohio (WCMH) – After nearly 50 years in business, a beloved restaurant will close its doors for good at the end of October.

LaScala Italian Bistro is a family-owned Dublin restaurant and event center that simply could not sustain the loss of revenue due to the pandemic.

This summer, longtime owner and chef at LaScala, Willi Lalli, passed away after contracting COVID-19.

His son, Nick Lalli, who worked alongside his father as co-owner, tried everything to not also lose the business they both loved to the pandemic.

However, a few days ago, Nick made the tough decision to close.

“He officially got his official diagnosis actually on Father’s Day, so my last conversation with him was, ‘Hey, how were the restaurant sales?’” Nick Lalli said.

A passionate restauranteur even when sick, Willi had been the first employee hired at LaScala in 1972. In 2009, he was able to buy the restaurant.

“He was finally able to achieve his dream of owning the restaurant when he was able to buy it,” Nick Lalli said.

Along with his son Nick, Willi turned LaScala into an award-winning local favorite spot, from hosting 300 guests for a wedding or high school prom to welcoming local regulars and celebrities like Gene Simmons at the bar: LaScala is a central Ohio legend.

“Everyone has a memory of this place,” Nick Lalli said. “If it’s not they’ve been here for a wedding or they had their wedding or engagement, we’ve even had instances where it’s been in someone’s will that their wake will be at LaScala because they’ve had every family event here.”

That was before the pandemic changed everything for Nick and his staff of 55 employees.

“Obviously, we’re a banquet hall/restaurant where what was a record year with weddings is now, there’s nothing, everyone’s cancelled their wedding,” Nick Lalli said. “Your sales a third of what they were and there doesn’t seem to be a turning point.”

Oct. 31 will be LaScala’s final day in business, but Nick is hoping many locals will visit over the next few weeks.

“So, there’s a lot of tears when it was officially announced,” Nick Lalli said. “So we’re a double statistic now, so we had a COVID death and a COVID claim to business.”

Nick has started a GoFundMe page to help his employees, but he just hopes a lot of families will come to say good-bye to a central Ohio favorite.

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