Tornadoes, coronavirus deliver potentially lethal blow to 60-year-old Dayton restaurant

‘We held on as long as we could,’ owners of El Greco’s Pizza Villa say, although door is left open for a return

Credit: Lauren Rinehart for

Credit: Lauren Rinehart for

The one-two punch of the Memorial Day tornadoes and the coronavirus pandemic-related forced shutdown of its dine-in service may have been a knockout blow for one of the Dayton area’s longest-established restaurants.

El Greco's Pizza Villa, which has operated at 3976 Salem Ave. in Harrison Twp. for more than six decades, held what its owners called a “going out of business sale” Friday, when everything on the menu was half off.

>> Which Dayton-area restaurants are offering carryout, delivery and curbside service?

"Well, we held on as long as we could, folks, but this just isn't sustainable for us," the restaurant's owners said in a post on the restaurant's Facebook page Thursday night.

A door was left cracked for an eventual return, however.

>> PHOTOS: Take a walk through beautiful Cox Arboretum this spring

“Maybe we can come back when things normalize, nothing is written in stone,” the restaurant’s owners said.

>> Here's what downtown Dayton's largest craft breweries are doing during pandemic

The owners told this news outlet Friday morning that El Greco’s Pizza Villa survived major disruptions in 2019, including a water emergency and the Memorial Day tornadoes, but the forced shutdown of dine-in services due to the coronavirus pandemic “is just too much.”

“We’ve lost about 65 percent of our business due to lost dine-in sales and this just isn’t sustainable. Who knows when things will get back to normal? Could be a very long time.”

>> ALSO NEW TODAY: Keep a coronavirus diary to help Wright State’s archives document the pandemic

The restaurant is believed to have opened in the 1950s. Its heyday came in the 1960s and ‘70s, when the Salem Avenue Corridor was a bustling, thriving destination for area residents and diners.

Customers reacted with a mixture of grief and encouragement.

>> Acts of kindness: 25 ways you can make someone's day

“I must be having a nightmare,” one commenter wrote. “My family have been coming there for nearly 45 years. It's our favorite ever! Thank you for so many great meals and thank you for the wonderful staff. You will be missed. My boys will be devastated not getting their special chocolate chip cookies! Truly going to miss it ...”

Another customer wrote, “Sad day to say the least. I ate there the first time in 1980 while attending Fairview High School. I still come for tacos and pizza. You will be missed, but I hope you can come back.”

>> A Dayton classic: Here's why you should visit El Greco's Pizza Villa

Another commenter said, “Please, take a well deserved break and rest, and when this is over, come back as strong as ever! Wishing you the best!”

In mid-November 2018, El Greco's Pizza Villa owner Johna Sanchez told this news organization that she had decided to shut down the restaurant the following month. But an outpouring of support prompted Sanchez to change her mind days later.

Her announcement that she had a change of heart and would keep the restaurant open was warmly received by diners and former patrons of the restaurant, whose comments ranged from “CHRISTMAS MIRACLE!” to “Thank you Baby Jesus!!!! Best Christmas present ever.”

>> 'CHRISTMAS MIRACLE': Fans of El Greco Pizza Villa rejoice at owner's change of heart

About the Author