The sidewalk is closed in front of the longtime restaurant located at 1125 First Ave. SE, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Originally known as Zio Johno’s, Via Sofia’s closed on June 10, 2024. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — An Italian restaurant that has been a cornerstone on First Avenue for decades abruptly closed this week.

Via Sofia’s, originally known as Zio Johno’s, 1125 First Ave. SE, shut its doors Monday, June 10, 2024.

Zio Johno’s opened at the site, across from Coe College, in 1984 and would have celebrated its 40th anniversary this year. It was the first location for the restaurant, which has since expanded.

Via Sofia’s is shown the day it closed on Monday, June 10, 2024, in Cedar Rapids. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Signs posted at the restaurant noted the site is permanently closed and pointed customers to the newly remodeled location at 5411 Center Point Rd. NE, or the restaurant in Cedar Falls.

“We have made the tough choice to bid farewell to our First Avenue location. Cedar Rapids, your enduring support means the world to us,” the restaurant noted on Facebook. “Swing by our freshly renovated location at 5411 Center Point Rd NE, where we pledge to continue serving the same delightful Italian cuisine you adore. Your unwavering support is priceless, and we are thrilled to build more fantastic moments together.”

The First Avenue location was the first Zio Johno’s in Iowa, opened by John Khairallah, who “came to Iowa to serve the hometown taste of Italy to the Cedar Rapids, Iowa community,” its website states.

“From the very beginning, our concept has always been – serve fresh, Italian food, fast and affordably. So, as a diner in the fast-casual food industry, we promise to use the freshest ingredients in our recipes, while keeping our prices budget-friendly to groups of all sizes.”

A staff member cited a decline in business at the First Avenue location for its closure.

The restaurant was known for its spaghetti, ravioli, mostaccioli and lasagna, along with pizza, salads and sub sandwiches at affordable prices, including meals for a family of four for under $15.

Khairallah revamped the First Avenue location several years ago, bringing the restaurant back to its 1928 origins with the nameplate of Tony Pusateri now visible again on the building.

The restaurant’s closure adds to other businesses that have shuttered along First Avenue, including a McDonald’s restaurant, cellular phone store, Subway restaurant, and the upcoming closure of the Hy-Vee store on June 23.

Read more: Demonstrators call for boycott of Hy-Vee

The 1928 nameplate of the Via Sofia’s building was unveiled after renovations several years ago. (photo/Cindy Hadish)