By Steve Large

WALNUT GROVE (CBS13) — Generations of regulars were in disbelief after a century-old California Delta restaurant was destroyed by fire.

Giusti’s Place in Walnut Grove went up in flames Thursday afternoon, reduced to rubble. A century of memories, meals, and beer mugs—gone in a single afternoon.

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Owner Mark Morais couldn’t help but wipe away a few tears.

“It’s taken over a hundred years to create a local gathering hole, and it took about three hours to destroy it,” Morais said. “We’ve had a lot of people walk through the front door.”

His grandparents started Giusti’s restaurant. He followed his own father as a third-generation owner.

Employees could only embrace as they watched firefighters pouring water on the burned-out building. A fire that started in the kitchen, moved up the walls and then everywhere.

Drone video shows the flames from high above Walnut Grove, where the building has been a landmark for as long as everyone there has been alive.

Megan Backer does not know life without it.

“It’s devastating, heartbreaking,” Backer said. “I’m a third-generation employee. My mom worked here, my grandma worked here.”

Regulars will miss the camaraderie and the home-style cooking.

“I just had dinner here last night,” Norman Garcia said. “It has the best minestrone of anywhere I’ve eaten minestrone. I mean, I’ve been all over the United States.”

It was a restaurant that served more than good food. It served as a center for this Delta community, for more than a century.

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Owner Mark Morais says it’s too soon to say if the family will try to rebuild.