When Bertucci's Italian Steakhouse opened in Highwood 23 years ago, it attracted not just local diners but people from Libertyville and Lincolnshire looking for a nice meal out. But as those towns began getting more restaurants of their own, owner Bruce Bertucci said his customers stopped making the trip.
"It’s much safer to have a few cocktails five minutes from home than to have to drive 20, 25 minutes,” he said. "We were steadily losing business. People aren’t coming to HIghwood. They’re staying in their own towns.
While many businesses have seen their fortunes improve since the economic downtown of 2008, things only got worse for Bertucci's.
“Business kept going down for the last five years," Bertucci said. "We’re still in a recession. It’s not improving."
Last week Bruce and his wife Lynne announced their decision to close the restaurant.
“It’s very sad," Bertucci said. "We’ve been here 23 years. We’ve got a million wonderful friends that are shocked and sad this is happening, but I guess all things end.”
The restaurant's last day was Sunday.
“It will be our old customers coming in for their last supper,” Bertucci predicted earlier that week.
Marc Korhumel of Libertyville was one of those old customers. He said the "friendly atmosphere and good food" drew him back for more than 10 years.
"I grew up in Lake Forest and this is a great meeting place," he said. "We're going to miss it."
Arona Landsman was having one last family dinner at Bertucci's Sunday night.
"I think it's very, very sad," she said. "We've had a lot of happy events here. We're here every Thanksgiving. Everything we celebrate, we celebrate here. I don't know what we're going to do. I don't know where we're going to go."
Her husband Bob said he wants to keep track of the restaurant's staff to see where they wind up.
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