ANAHEIM, Calif. (FOX11/ CNS)
A crackling fire ripped through the walls of the iconic Anaheim White House Restaurant.
It broke out just after 4 o’clock Saturday morning and quickly spread throughout the building.
A devastating scene for chef and owner, Bruno Serato.
“I’ve been crying since 4 o’clock this morning, maybe 13 hours straight,” Serato said. “It’s the only time I cried so much in my life other than when I lost my mom and today is my second worse situation.”
The restaurant was Serato’s pride and joy.
An Italian immigrant he worked his way up from busboy to owner and was getting ready to celebrate its 30th anniversary.
“I still love this place like the first day I saw it,” he said.
Serato thinks an electrical problem likely started the fire.
He was in the midst of remodeling the second floor in time for Valentine’s day.
It took 40 firefighters more than a half hour to knock down the blaze, but not before the historic building originally built as a home in 1909 was severely damaged.
Firefighters estimate a million dollars worth of repairs will be needed to restore the property.
“My brother, my sister call me every hour and a half from Italy they all cry devastated because they said it looks like you lost your own son or your own daughter and I said yes that’s what it feels like,” Serato said.
Serato’s restaurant was also the site of his charity work in the community.
When he noticed many hungry children in the area he began a foundation - Caterina Club - named after his mom.
“My own mom said, why don’t you give them pasta, and I said, you’re right mom, I fed the first one and now we are close to 2-thousand kids a day,” Serato said.
Two-thousand kids each day and over a million meals from his kitchen since he started.
Billy Saldana was one of the first kids Bruno fed at the Boys and Girls Club of Anaheim
Billy Saldana, Boys and Girls Club of Anaheim
“I didn’t know what pasta was because my parents never made it, but it smelled good and it tasted good,” Saldana said.
Serato knows his work is just is too important and that’s why he plans to rebuild.
“I can’t close this chapter like this with a fire,” he said. “I won’t let that destroy what I love in my life.”
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