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Malio's will say farewell for now

Getting a reservation at Malio's Steak House Saturday might be more difficult than usual. It's the Tampa institution's last night after 37 years.

Malio's said Thursday it is selling its property at 301 S Dale Mabry to Masonite International Corp., a door manufacturer that plans to construct its new administrative headquarters on the site.

Malio's expects to reopen a smaller restaurant. But the owners of the restaurant and nightclub said they don't know where or when.

"Malio's isn't going away," said Derek Iavarone, son of Malio Iavarone, who founded the restaurant with wife Shirley. "This is just temporary. We'll be back. Definitely."

Masonite, a company with $2.5-billion in annual sales and plants in 18 countries, will move its office at the Tampa Commons building on North Dale Mabry to the new location. The company said it is unsure when construction will begin or when the transition will be completed.

The company has 90 employees in Tampa and will have 120 at its new building, including senior management. No specifics were immediately available.

"We look forward to the continued expansion of our company worldwide and to becoming active corporate and individual participants in the growth of Tampa," Philip Orsino, president and chief executive officer of Masonite, said in a written statement.

Terms of the transaction were not released.

Malio's has a rich history in South Tampa. A monumental picture gallery on its walls shows some of the more prominent people who have dined there: Rudolph Giuliani, Muhammad Ali, Roger Clemens and George Steinbrenner, among them. Steinbrenner has his own booth with a telephone.

Reputed mob leader Santo Trafficante was supposedly a regular. Tommy Franks recently took his in-laws there for lunch. Etched glass panels in the main dining room offer thanks to Edward DeBartolo Sr., who loaned Iavarone money for an expansion.

And Malio's is notorious as the place where an employee in the 1980s wooed Burt Reynolds away from Loni Anderson.

In September, an attorney for the restaurant asked the city to rezone the property for a 40,000-square-foot office building and 4,500-square-foot bank.

At the time, Malio's owners wouldn't confirm they had a buyer. The restaurant is owned by Shirley and Malio Iavarone, their son, Derek, and Dennis and Ray Sanchez.

"The timing of the transaction is perfect," Malio Iavarone said in a written statement. "Please don't forget about me. I will be back, and soon!"

Derek Iavarone said no special plans are in the works for the final night at that location.

"I'm sure we'll have a lot of people," he said, acknowledging reservations might be tough to get.

"I've been telling my friends just to show up at the bar and I would get them in."

Information from Times files was used in this report.

CLOSING SATURDAY: Malio's Steak House is selling its Dale Mabry property after 37 years.