White House

Flames Engulf Historic Anaheim Restaurant

"It's just, we work so hard," said the owner and head chef. "For 30 years, every single day of my life, to see this go down like this, its so sad."

A historic Anaheim restaurant that has served the Orange County area for decades became engulfed in flames early Saturday.

The fire began at around 4:18 a.m. at Anaheim White House Restaurant, located at 887 South Anaheim Boulevard, according to the Anaheim Fire Department.

The fire ripped through the second floor of the building and the patio and shot through the roof before a knockdown was declared 30 minutes later, according to fire officials. The blaze is estimated to have caused over $1 million in damage, according to Anaheim Fire and Rescue.

The Anaheim White House Restaurant is a high-end, privately owned Italian steak house and seafood restaurant located in the heart of Orange County, according to its website. It is a landmark in Anaheim.

Owner Bruno Serato has been head chef of the Anaheim mainstay for 30 years. He said he received a call about the fire around 4 a.m. Saturday.

"I was sleeping, I couldn't sleep all night long I don't know, why," Serato said through tears. "I came over but I was hoping it was just a joke from somebody. And its not a joke."

The cause and extent of the damages were not known.

"It's just, we work so hard," Serato said. "For 30 years, every single day of my life, to see this go down like this, it's so sad."

The restaurant had over 200 reservations for Saturday alone, and was almost completely sold out for the next two weeks, Serato said. 

"If it were happened when we have people here, it could have been a tragedy, at least there were no tragedy was here," Serato said.

For Serato, the loss extends past the restaurant. Serato has fed children every night for 12 years through his own foundation, Caterina's Club. He told NBC4 he feeds 2,000 children a day. 

Without a kitchen to cook for them, he said he may use his own kitchen so he can keep feeding them.

"There's people out there that are in worse situations than me today, so I'm going to feed the children no matter what."

"I need to find a kitchen immediately to cook for the children," he added."

Customer Michael Keener said he is going to offer Bruno his Highway 39 Events kitchen that was recently built.

There's always hope, Serano says, symbolized by a rosary necklace recovered in the rubble. 

"I have faith. I just have to stand up again," Serano said while fighting back tears.

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

The building was "crafted" in 1909, and was opened as "Thee White House Restaurant" in 1981, according to the restaurant's website. Serato became owner of the restaurant in 1987.

[2017 UPDATED 12/19] 2017 Southern California Images in the News

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