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Under The Hat: More than a Place to Eat

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I've been to Ricardo's for the marinated filet steak.
I've been to Ricardo's for the pasta.
But before this week I had never been to the East Lake Road restaurant for this:
To cover what remained of the place after fire pretty much gutted the kitchen.
Located between General Electric and where Hammermill used to be, Ricardo's is an east Erie blue collar mainstay in what has become an otherwise disposable world.
It first opened in the 1940's, and over the years it grew into a fixture as certain as anything.
Perhaps that's what made this loss so devastating for the neighborhood; you could count on a full parking lot at Ricardo's on Friday or Saturday night in Erie the way you could count on the sun coming up or the six months of winter we have around here.
Some of the original glitz may have faded from the place's glory days; now you can get away with wearing jeans in the place.
But you could always count on good food at decent prices, a drawer always full of coloring books to keep the kids occupied, and free breaded zucchini sticks before you order.
Owner Pete West told me that as he stood there watching the flames go out the firefighters would walk by and tell him how this one had his first date with his wife there or that one took his prom date there.
When I relayed that story to the Chief Fire Inspector, his eyes brightened.
"Hey," he said, "I brought my prom date here too!"
You would think the history of the place would deserve some deep intrigue into how the fire started.
Life rarely works that way.
Turns out a dryer vent overheated, no more mystery than that.
West says he'll remodel or rebuild but that's a long journey, one full of damage assessments and insurance negotiations.
 For this year at least, eastside prom dates will be eating somewhere else.
But I hope for the best.
At some restaurants its just business.
But some can become more than a place to eat.

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