After about 30 years in business — 15 in Fort Worth and the last 15 in Bartonville — Palermo’s Italian Cafe has closed.
But the restaurant space was sold to a local restaurateur, who plans to reopen the Italian eatery in less than a month with a new name and updated menu.
Fay Krasniqi has owned and operated Palermo’s since 1992 with her husband, and their daughters worked at the restaurant when they were teenagers. But in recent years her children have gotten full-time jobs after graduating college, and her husband died last year, and she was ready to retire after experiencing the employment crisis that began last spring.
“Ever since last May, it has been impossible to find help,” Krasniqi said.
A Palermo’s regular since Krasniqi relocated from Ft. Worth to Bartonville Town Center in 2007, Tim House was dining at Palermo’s last year when Fay told him she wanted to sell the place and retire. House recently restored and reopened The Bartonville Store, and he saw a business opportunity that would help his friend achieve her goal.
“This spot was like my baby, I loved this place and this area and everyone in the community, and I wanted to leave the restaurant in good hands,” Krasniqi said. “He’s my Day One customer, my friend and a very good business man. He will do absolutely wonderful.”
When customers heard that Palermo’s was closing soon, they turned out in droves last week, causing the restaurant to run out of food. Krasniqi said she had planned to be open this week until the sale is made final on Friday, but she ran out of food on Sunday.
House said that he, his wife Kathleen and business partner John Sakelaris will be the owners of the new restaurant. They will keep the space closed for about a month to make some renovations and reopen the restaurant with a new name (TBD). It will remain an Italian restaurant, but they’re bringing in an operator from Cafe Italia in Grapevine and will update the menu with some items similar to that restaurant. The new owners also plan to add a full bar, but the TABC approval process will take a while.
“We look forward to adding another dimension to the growing Bartonville restaurant scene,” House said.
Meanwhile, Krasniqi said she plans to travel a lot in her first year of retirement, and it’ll be the first time in 30 years where she can travel without worrying about Palermo’s while she’s gone.
“In 30 years, I didn’t get to travel much, and when I did, my mind was here with the restaurant,” she said.
Krasniqi has written a memoir that, a year ago, she thought was done but for some editing. But after the staffing crisis she experienced last year, she’s going to add to the memoir her account of what she described as the toughest time she’s had in her career. She said she’s received several job offers from restaurateurs who know how hard she works, but she has no interest in returning to the industry unless and until there are no more staffing issues.
“I want to thank everybody form this area for being very understanding during my difficulties,” she said. “It’s time for some Fay time.”