Villa Nova restaurant has overlooked the Newport Beach waterfront for nearly four decades, but come Thursday the iconic landmark will go up for auction.
Andy Crean has owned Villa Nova since 1993, but now he's ready to retire. Crean looked into potential buyers and ultimately decided auctioning the restaurant would be a more viable option. Unless sold through auction, Crean’s lease on the property would be in effect for another two years, preventing new owners from implementing any changes, Crean said.
Tranzon Auction will be in charge of the auction scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday in the restaurant's banquet room. When Villa Nova closes at the end of March, the fate of the restaurant will be in the hands of the new owner.
“We’ve had everything from gossiping, to rumors flying about fighting among the owner’s family, to all kinds of crazy stories but there is nothing like that,” Susan Emmett, the restaurant's general manager, said. “It’s a shame the bad stuff gets passed around because it really is just a sincere way of saying 'hey, it’s been a good run, but maybe now it’s time for someone else to pick up the torch and carry it forward.'”
Local restaurants have already contacted Emmett, offering positions for Villa Nova staff incase the new owners choose to discontinue the restaurant. However, some of Villa Nova’s employees have worked for the restaurant for 20, 30 and even 40 years, and Emmett says they may be ready to retire too.
“We’re all prepared for the change, and our regular customers are all very supportive,” Emmett said.
But because Villa Nova, which originally opened on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip in 1933, has sat on the Newport Harbor since the late 1960s, many patrons are sad to see it go.
“I remember going there as a kid, seeing the signed pictures of Marilyn Monroe, joking with the waiters, having a good time with my family," Mikhael Kazzi, an Orange County native, said. "It’s definitely got soul.”