It’s been a challenging time for Andre’s, the old-school Italian favorite near The Grove. The 56-year-old restaurant is slated for demolition as developers prepare for a new apartment building, so owners opened Grand Italiani in Canoga Park to attract a new generation for Italian-American classics last June. The opening came with some challenges, and planned to close last Sunday. So ownership sent out a public plea: come and eat, or we’re gone forever. The plan worked.
Owner Aron Celnik notified customers that last Sunday was the final day of service. The restaurant opened in late June, and regulars suggested that Celnik reach out to its Facebook community to bring in new customers. Celnik wrote the following message on November 20:
“It’s been overwhelming. There’s hundreds of customers coming in here, a lot of them for the very first time. They heard my Hail Mary, my plea. I was ready to hand out my employees’ last checks, so I just put up a Facebook post. The community that came out to support us, the way they’re responding is incredible. We’ve been going strong since. So maybe we can give it another go for at least another month.”
There’s more good news on this front. Andre’s received a lease extension through June 2020. The property that houses Andre’s is still slated for demolition to make way for a new apartment building. Construction was supposed to begin in 2019, but delays will keep the 56-year-old old-school Italian restaurant in business, for now.
Celnik exhausted all financial resources after buying the 7,400 square foot Canoga Park building last year, and was ready to throw in the towel on November 19. But he’s now in the position of hiring new employees to meet the demands of a now busy restaurant.
In addition to the new faces, longtime employees volunteered their personal time. Some worked extra hours knowing Celnik was short on funds. “I have former employees from Andre’s who came here to help,” says Celnik. “They wouldn’t take a penny from me. You can’t put a price on loyalty and friendship like that. How could I do it without them?”
“And now people know we’re here.”
Grand Italiani. 21730 Sherman Way, Canoga Park, CA