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Regulars come dine a last time at Heidi's

Behind the bar at Heidi's Italian Restaurant hangs a calendar. On Sunday's date beneath the words Father's Day, someone had drawn a frowning face with tears running down the cheeks.

Sunday was the final day for the family restaurant at the intersection of U.S. 41 N and State Road 44. Many customers stopped by for a meal and to say goodbye.

Two regulars sat by the window and watched the traffic on U.S. 41 while they ate spaghetti dinners. At another table, a man asked the waitress why it was the restaurant's last day. At another, the question was about the future of the location: Would it become a drive-through hamburger restaurant?

Sitting by the window, Manual Pena sipped his coffee and looked over his shoulder for his favorite waitress, Renee Brown. "I will miss it here," said Pena, 84. "This is a nice family restaurant. All the people are so courteous."

As he and his wife started to leave, Pena stopped and gave Brown a hug. "Thank you darling," she said.

"He used to come in every Sunday," said Brown, 26. "He didn't know it was our last day. It's real sad."

Many of the people coming in for the last day were hoping to get recipes of their favorite dishes.

Scott Brown, Renee's husband and one of the three owners of Heidi's, said they were having a party for the employees and regular customers Sunday night.

"It will help us to close down and say goodbye to Heidi's," he said as he sliced a loaf of garlic bread in the kitchen.

"I got an offer to buy into Oysters, and it was too good of an opportunity. I couldn't pass it up," he said, referring to Oysters, a seafood restaurant in Crystal River. "I didn't like the insecurity of being here. The owner (of the property Heidi's is on) still wants to sell."

Brown said the restaurant had been on a month-to-month lease with the land owner, Harold Grumbling.