After more than 45 years as a staple of central Omaha dining, Amato’s Cafe & Catering announced Monday that it plans to close.

The restaurant’s last day will be June 23.

Owner Ann Amato, who ran the business with her late husband, Sam — and more recently with her son Tony — plans to retire.

“This has been a labor of love,” Ann Amato said. “Our customers have grown to be like family.”

Ann Amato said her four children plan to come home to greet customers on the final weekend.

“They have all grown up there and worked there,” she said. “It’s important they are also there to thank the patrons for all their support all these years.”

The restaurant is well known for its oversized pancakes studded with big hunks of ricotta cheese, its homemade Italian sausage with roasted red peppers and a devoted neighborhood crowd. For those reasons, plus its memorable atmosphere, the restaurant appeared more than once on popular food television shows.

Celebrity chef Guy Fieri filmed an episode for the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” that aired in 2009. Amato’s appeared on the Travel Channel’s “Man v. Food Nation” in 2011.

Sam Amato, who died in 2017, wanted people to feel at home in the restaurant. With a deep, hearty voice, he told diners to come in, put their elbows on the table and laugh out loud.

He grew up in Omaha’s Little Italy neighborhood amid the smell of the bread and spaghetti sauce his Sicilian grandmother made every day.

He bussed tables at Caniglia’s and other Italian restaurants.

Amato’s started as a food truck and opened at its current location, near 64th and Center Streets, in 1993.

Sam Amato was a big personality, and he famously said his restaurant would continue to thrive in the midst of modernization and development in the neighborhood around Aksarben Village and Baxter Arena. Omaha radio stations aired his trademark advertising spots long after his death.

Amato’s will be open 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The property has already been sold. After it closes, the owners plan an online auction of restaurant supplies and other items, to be held at auctionsolutionsinc.com.

“I am going to miss all the people, but we have such great memories,” Ann Amato said.

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What are your favorite memories of Amato’s? Please share them in the comments section.

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Reporter - Food and dining

Sarah Baker Hansen writes restaurant reviews and food stories for the World-Herald. She also writes the quarterly "Food Prowl" series, where teams of tasters go around Omaha to find favorite foods in a number of categories. Phone: 402-444-1069

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