By SUE WADE

Sun Correspondent

ENGLEWOOD — A restaurant closes unexpectedly. Almost at once, locals start buzzing about its fate.

Sometimes a closure means permanent shuttering — recently the case with Rob’s Pizzeria in North Port and Annie B’s Beef N Booze in Placida, both in business for less than a year.

But other times there’s a perfectly rational and benign explanation.

When Englewood’s Café 776 closed precipitously in late April, the explanation was tragic but perfectly rational.

Its longtime head cook passed away suddenly. His wife and son-in-law, both core kitchen staff, were plunged into mourning and unable to work.

Owner Jim Wesson had been planning an offseason overhaul of the decades-old building. The tragedy only hastened the process.

Wesson purchased Café 776 in 2006, when it already had a cult following as a fish-and-chips place. Even British visitors claimed it was the best fish and chips they’d had in their lives.

“People said they loved the Old Florida look and charm, but the place really was just old,” Wesson said. “They’ll still get their Old Florida quaintness on the screened tiki bar and in the dining room, but we’ve refreshed and refurbished everything.

“We’ve retiled the bathroom and kitchen walls in spotless white, installed new kitchen equipment, replaced drop ceilings, added fresh new blue and orange paint, and refinished the floor with blue-grey woodgrain tile.”

Cindy Cirigliano, an Englewood school bus driver, has been anxiously watching the café ever since it closed.

“My mother, sister and I have been eating here for years,” she said. “We can’t wait for it to reopen.”

Café 776 (941-475-0819), 138 N. Indiana Avenue, Englewood, just north of Dearborn, is expected to reopen in July.

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