It’s been nearly a month since one of North Royalton’s oldest and most treasured family-owned restaurants closed its doors, and the community is still adjusting to the change.
Carrie Cerino’s Ristorante & Party Center, a long-cherished Italian eatery, nightclub and banquet center located on Ridge Road, unexpectedly shuttered Feb. 18 without any warning, other than a post on its Facebook page Feb. 19 that stated: “After sharing in the memories of many family events for over 57 years, Carrie Cerino’s Ristorante & Party Center will be closed effective February 18, 2020. Unfortunately, given the headwinds facing many small businesses in today’s environment, it made it very difficult for Carrie Cerino’s to operate and compete. With a heavy heart, owner, Carmen Cerino, made the difficult decision to close and hopes to use the time off to enjoy his growing family. The Cerino Family would like to thank the community and their loyal customers for allowing them to serve them over the years.”
The doors that once warmly opened for diners looking forward to a tasty Italian meal, couples about to exchange wedding vows before family and friends, families celebrating momentous occasions like milestone anniversaries and birthdays, civic organizations and area businesses hosting raffles, fundraisers and meetings, bands excited to perform in the lounge, car enthusiasts showing off their polished sets of wheels in warm summer months, and politicians eager to conduct special events in a packed ballroom, are now locked. The Royalton Recorder’s request for an interview with the restaurant went unanswered.
The news of the February closure sent shockwaves through the community, both via the Internet and in real-time. Facebook users left hundreds of comments on the now dissolved Facebook page for Carrie Cerino’s. Comments ranged from nostalgia to sadness to well-wishes to surprise to speculation, presumably because just hours before the restaurant closed on Feb. 18, they had posted an employment listing for a new wait staff member. According to Facebook comments, all had appeared well over the busy Valentine’s Day weekend – a holiday that occurred just hours before the restaurant closed.
The closure even blindsided city leaders, who apparently had no idea the restaurant was in peril.
“I first heard about it after another council person had seen it on social media,” said Ward 1 Councilperson Jessica Fenos. “Like everyone else, I was shocked, sad and left with lots of unanswered questions. Regardless of the owner’s reasons for closing so abruptly, it remains a big loss for the city. My biggest concern is for the employees that suddenly lost their jobs, the patrons that lost money on unused gift certificates and event deposits and having yet another vacant building in Ward 1. The property is up for sale now and I will be keeping a close eye on it to make sure that any plans for future business there are desirable to our community.”
The day before the Feb. 18 shuttering, North Royalton Mayor Larry Antoskiewicz had spoken with Owner Carmen Cerino to reserve and secure a date for a future function, only to learn the next day that the restaurant had closed.
“It caught me by surprise,” Antoskiewicz said of a conversation he had later with Carmen Cerino following the closure. “He kept indicating that he had hung on as long as he could. He thought he had some initial possibilities to keep things moving and those didn’t work out.”
The loss of Carrie Cerino’s extends beyond North Royalton’s borders, Antoskiewicz noted. It wasn’t just a tried-and-favorite for North Royalton, but those in other communities as well.
Carrie Cerino’s – a name practically synonymous with North Royalton – now stands dark and deserted; it’s a fate that’s hard for many to come to terms with, especially those who shared personal memories there such as a first date, a wedding or a special dinner with a beloved relative. The closing of Carrie Cerino’s is another hit to the city, which has recently seen the closing of other local eateries, including Mario’s, The Hidden Backyard and Olesia’s Place, all once open along Royalton Road.
The Italian restaurant has a warm history and was close to celebrating nearly 60 years of service by the Cerino lineage. Founder Carrie Cerino began serving her favorite Italian dishes at the Ridge Road location in 1963. Longtime diners may remember “Grandma Carrie” as she personally visited tables, greeted guests and asked how their meals were. In earlier years, Carrie operated a family bakery in Maple Heights. According to family lore, Carrie and her husband Dominic, Sr. reportedly put down a $20 deposit on Schuckert’s Chalet – the site that would become what everyone knew as Carrie Cerino’s Ristorante & Party Center on Ridge Road. Carrie died in 1988. The Cerinos served patrons through four generations of family, most recently with grandson Carmen Cerino and his wife, Jo Marie, who became sole owners/operators in 2008. At its closing, the site encompassed three dining rooms, two ballrooms and a lounge. It was a popular wedding and special events venue, with nuptials and other celebrations in the books for 2020. It is unknown if Carrie Cerino’s will refund wedding/banquet hall deposits and gift card purchases.
Contributing Writer