El Grande Steak House

THE FORMER El Grande Steak House building is scheduled for auction next week.

SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP — A landmark restaurant is about to go on the auction block after more than 50 years of family ownership.

Ashtabula residents Roger and Eva DelPrince closed the El Grande Steak House four years ago. The restaurant and contents, including equipment, furniture, supplies and decorations, will be sold to the highest bidder at 10 a.m. Wednesday at El Grande Steak House, 2145 W. Prospect Road.

“Yes, those beautiful antique Mexican mission bells that rang for every birthday, anniversary and wedding reception will be sold,” Linda DiCamillo, the former manager, said. “It was our way of thanking them for their patronage; the customer always came first — that’s what made the El Grande special.”

All of the western decor, including a plethora of legendary cowboy movie photographs — John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and Burt Lancaster, as well as movie posters — the “Pat Cooper Recommends” lighted sign by the front door and five hand-painted dining room windows will be sold.

Emily DelPrince, the DelPrinces’ daughter, said just about everyone has a special bond with “this unique treasure of Ashtabula history.”

A limited edition Las Vegas etching will be auctioned off, as well.

An Ohio Department of Transportation road-widening project in the summer of 2010 made it difficult for many businesses in that stretch of West Prospect to convince motorists to navigate the mess. El Grande employees created a large sign and posted it outside the restaurant to remind customers the eatery was still open, but it closed its doors that September.

Two years later, the building was damaged in a two-vehicle accident on West Prospect Road. A woman driving her white Jeep liberty east on West Prospect traveled left of center and struck a west-bound silver Jeep. The Jeep Liberty lost its left front wheel and swerved sharply north, crashing into the front of the El Grande Steak House.

No one was seriously injured but the crash caused considerable damage to the exterior wall. Roger DelPrince said Friday he was thankful no one was in the building at the time. He and his wife repaired the wall, bought new carpet and “you would never know what happened; it’s beautiful,” Emily DelPrince said.

In a May 2009 interview with the Star Beacon, Roger DelPrince said he went into the restaurant business after cooking for troops who were returning from overseas after World War II. He and his wife opened El Grande in 1959.

Several celebrities have been associated with the steak house over the years, including comedian Pat Cooper, who was married to Roger’s sister, and Miss USA Cheryl Ann Patton, who stopped in for dinner in 1967 while on a cross-country tour.

Roger DelPrince said the upscale restaurant took pride in its quality food and romantic setting, which included a piano player and harpist.

The DelPrinces’ son, local podiatrist Guy DelPrince, said there will never be another restaurant like it.

“It was a very special restaurant because my parents shared their gift of hospitality and generosity,” he said. “Their restaurant made such an impact, that even today, many of my patients say, ‘I really miss it there. When are they going to reopen the El Grande?’”

More details about the auction can be found at the Steinfurth-Luoma Auctions website at http://AuctionZip.com