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June 7, 2011 at 7:00 PM

Italian Spaghetti House, Cave Man Kitchen, Casper’s, Alligator Soul: “Closed? What?!! Why?”

The abrupt closure of a restaurant is often a shock and disappointment to those who frequent the place. Trust me, I know. Last week, I told you about the denouement of Olives Cafe & Wine Bar in downtown Edmonds, shuttered without notice. “After years of pulling rabbits out of my hat, it finally hit home that I couldn’t justify opening the doors at the beginning of the month,” owner Michael Young said in the days after the closure. “There were too many bills, too many debts and not enough income.”

Sad though that closure may be for me and my Edmonds neighbors, at least we’ve gotten some closure. Over the past several months, I’ve heard from diners around the Sound, distressed that their favorite restaurants have gone “Poof!”– with no apparent explanation.

Cave Man Kitchen closed?” asked a fella named Ben, pining for that Kent classic. “The last few times I have stopped by they had a small ‘closed for remodeling’ sign in the window, though no work was being done. Lately there’s a busy signal or no answer at their phone. Could they really have closed after 40 years? Please tell me it isn’t so!”

Finding closure.

Would that I could, Ben. Cave Man’s phone is disconnected. Public records show the owners filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February and their business license expired in March.

Casper’s Taste of the South is closed?!!,” writes Alison Alcoba. “When? Why? I didn’t see this in your column, so I was surprised when I drove by and saw the parking lot empty. So sad!” Sad, indeed. Casper Townsend (known to shout “Gator done!”) has given up the ghost and the (fried) ‘gator at his Shoreline restaurant. I, too, was sorry to see him and his ribs go, only a year after opening in a rehabbed spot off 155th and Aurora that once housed a Wendy’s.

Casper with his sign, which reads: “Coming soon!” in 2009. A year later, the sign on the store said: “Closed. Thank you for all the fun memories.”

Prior to the closure late last year, Casper told me his cardiologist told him it’s time to get out of the business. He’d hoped to sell the restaurant, he said. When that didn’t happen, he made arrangements with his landlord to terminate the lease. That’s the bad news. Now for some good:

Have you been to Rainin’ Ribs, doing big business at Casper’s original little rib-shack in Lake Forest Park? I have, and the food (I’m partial to the baby backs) is worth a detour.

Casper’s isn’t the only Southern comfort-spot that’s Gator done-in. I’m still hearing howls from the north wondering what happened at Everett’s Alligator Soul. The Cajun restaurant’s owners left mourners in their wake — and a sign on the door citing “economic hardship” — when they closed before Christmas. A move to larger quarters in 2008, coupled with the bad economy, helped put the nail in its coffin.

Fans of Alligator Soul’s chef Ryan Sturm, who gained praise for his Cajun cookin’ during his six-year tenure there, might take heart in knowing he may be found catering and hosting special events in conjunction with local wineries, breweries and organic farmers (find him at www.chefryansturm.com).

The greatest hue and cry, however, comes from Eaters puzzled over the fate of a 55-year-old Lake City landmark.

The Italian Spaghetti House & Pizzeria. [Seattle Times/Mike Siegel]

“We’ve been going to the Italian Spaghetti House & Pizzeria on Lake City Way for 30 years,” wrote Bernadette Lee in May. “The last time we tried to go there was sometime in February, when we found a note on the door that said the place was under repairs and that it would reopen in March. Since then, we’ve driven by numerous times and found the same note still tacked to the door. Do you have any idea what’s going on?”

The note says they’re closing for the month of March for minor renovations. Fans are still waiting, and continue to write me saying, “What gives?”

I do now. The closure “was the accumulation of so many things,” explains owner Dorothy Andolfi, citing rising food costs and taxes among them. “We hope to reopen. We’re debating about construction. It depends on the financing.”

“It’s rough, shutting down right now, when you’re talking about 55 years in business,” said Andolfi, recalling that her late husband, Elio, went to work at the spaghetti house in 1959. The couple bought the place a decade later. “The kids grew up in the restaurant,” she said, speaking of her son Anthony and daughter Gina, who’d been running the restaurant prior to its closure.

Following Elio’s death in 2004, there was talk about selling their property for development. But nothing came of it. Keeping the place afloat since has been a struggle. “We brought in an executive chef, created a bunch of new dishes. We were doing OK and all of a sudden it was like everything stopped out there,” Andolfi said.

Financing the build-out of a bar and securing a liquor license are key to the restaurant’s viability when — and if — they decide to reopen, she told me. And if you don’t reopen? I asked. “Tell our customers thank you for all the great, great years.”

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