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UPDATE: Mishawaka restaurant destroyed by fire

February 20, 2012|By Denise Bohn | WSBT-TV Reporter

Mishawaka fire investigators are continuing to look for clues after a devastating fire at a popular family-owned restaurant.

Francesco's Italian Restaurant, on Lincolnway and Logan, was destroyed by fire early Monday morning.

The restaurant had been there for 27 years.

Firefighters received two 911 call around 1:30 Monday morning saying that huge clouds of smoke were pouring from the restaurant. When firefighters arrived, thick smoke covered the building and flames were raging inside. The fire was so intense the fire department used two aerial ladder trucks to battle the blaze from the outside. 

The restaurant is actually in a historic house – over 100 years old. All the windows are now shattered and the inside charred. Near the front door family photos of the owners still hang on the wall, covered with soot.

Francesco "Frank" Catanzariti first opened his Francesco's Restaurant on Ironwood. He moved it in 1985 to its current location on Lincolnway.

"I came from Italy, never heard English," he said.

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But that didn't stop Catanzariti from learning English, then pursuing his childhood dream of opening up his own authentic Italian restaurant...which featured his grandmother's recipes.

"My grandma used to have a restaurant in Italy, so I grow up in the food business."

A business which involved his entire family. His wife cooked there, his son helped manage the place and his daughter used to waitress. It was a business he planned on passing down to his children.

Catanzariti is devastated that his life’s work is charred and in ruins.

All Monday fire investigators sifted through debris, taking pictures, and looking for answers. They tell WSBT they know the fire did not start in the kitchen. They also say that the restaurant has been closed since Saturday night. When asked if they think someone broke in and started the fire, investigator George Shafer said, "All I can say is that the case is under investigation."

Meanwhile, Catanzariti says they did have insurance on the property and he isn't giving up on rebuilding his dream.

"It's in my blood,” he said. “It's all I know how to do. We’ll see what’s going to happen."

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