Anthony's Fish Grotto will serve its last plate of fish and chips and cup of clam chowder Jan. 31, closing the doors on 71 years of popular dining on San Diego Bay.
Co-owner Craig Ghio, grandson of founder Catherine "Mama" Ghio, greeted about 100 guests at the 11 a.m. Tuesday opening and planned to stay through closing some 12 hours later. He planned to uncork a few bottles of champagne and toast decades of service with the staff after the public left.
"Thank you for joining us," Ghio told customers, one by one. "We appreciate it. It's wonderful, it's terrific!"
Located on Harbor Drive, just south of the Star of India, Anthony's will be replaced by a group of restaurants by the Brigantine chain, also a long-time local business, under a new lease from the San Diego Unified Port District.
Anthony's will continue operating at its La Mesa location, but Ghio said the family will decide in about six months if it will seek new, smaller location downtown.
The building's contents will be auctioned off later this month and much of the staff will move on to other restaurants, having already interviewed with prospective employers at a job fair last week. A final company party is planned before Ghio turns over the keys to the port on or about March 1.
The 350-plus seats quickly filled up for the lunchtime crowd, and a line of about 50 waited to place their orders at the walk-up window of the adjacent Anthony's Fishette, with its outdoor tables overlooking the Westerdam cruise ship docked at Broadway Pier.
One of the early eaters was Balboa Park ranger Ken Duclo, 58, who recalled coming to Anthony's about the time it opened on the bay in 1966.
"As somebody who loves the history of the region, everytime a little bit of it slips away, you get a little misty-eyed and nostalgic," he said.
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