LISBON, Maine — As one era ended Thursday with the demolition of the landmark Graziano’s Casa Mia Restaurant, another has begun, the new owners of the property said.
But it was a sad day for those who looked on as a crew from Lisbon-based Longchamps and Sons began carefully tearing down the center building that once housed the Lisbon Street restaurant. An excavator yanked at it from the back side as a front-end loader eventually pushed the building away from Lisbon Street.
Graziano’s closed in March 2012 after a 43-year run. According to the town’s assessing department, it was purchased in September 2012 for $45,000 by DEM Properties LLC of Lewiston.
The company is a family partnership of Earl and Angie St. Hilaire, Marc and LuAnn Frenette, and Dennis and Kelley St. Hilaire, who all live on the same Lewiston street.
Earl St. Hilaire has owned the Blue Goose in Lewiston, a small tavern, for the last 10 years. When the opportunity arose, he and his family members — two siblings and their spouses — purchased the corner store in the same building next door that is Luiggi’s Pizzeria on Sabattus Street.
As they were closing on property, St. Hilaire said, the family began talking about possibly expanding within the Lewiston-Auburn or Lisbon area. Someone mentioned the Graziano’s building, then owned by the bank.
“So we looked into it and, long story short, made the bank an offer and they accepted, and that’s where we stand,” St. Hilaire said Thursday. “Our original plan is to put a Luiggi’s there and possibly a little pub connected to it.”
Luiggi’s would be smaller than Graziano’s, with enough space to locate an additional building on the property, St. Hilaire said. The pizzeria is in the design stage; owners need approvals from the Lisbon Planning Board.
St. Hilaire said they hope to “mimic what we have now: a dining area and takeout area. Come get your food, we’ll call your number.”
The hope is to have all buildings at the corner of Lisbon and Village streets down today, St. Hilaire said, a new structure up by fall, and doors open by next winter.
The Graziano family has been kept abreast of their plans, St. Hilaire said.
“It’s a well-known place within the state of Maine,” and within the United States, he said, as many boxers who came to Lewiston would eat there, “and they did have great food.”
Weather and other factors pushed back the demolition, but with the work finally under way Thursday, “it is exciting,” St. Hilaire said.
There was talk of remodeling the existing building, but after years of adding onto and connecting to existing buildings, it was easier to tear down buildings at the site and start from scratch, he said.
“With them getting in there today and knocking it down, it’s a big improvement, and very exciting.”