The owner of a popular Italian restaurant has bid his farewell after 25 years.

Vassilis Vassiliou has owned and run Mangiamo Italian Restaurant in Darwen for a quarter of a century but has decided it is time to sell up.

Vassilius, better known as Vass, said: “It’s been a pleasure to serve people again and again. It will always be my pleasure to make people happy.

“That’s what I always wanted to do, see happy faces.

“It was a very family orientated, the atmosphere was second to none.

“Thank you to everybody who has supported me over the years. I’ve appreciated all the customers.”

Vass acquired Mangiamo in 1996 when it was a Greek restaurant.

Despite his Greek Cypriot heritage, it had always been his dream to own and run an Italian restaurant, however, he did keep some Greek items on the menu.

He said: “I decided to change it to Italian because I have always learnt in Italian restaurants making pizzas and pastas and all the rest.

“I changed it and it has been an Italian restaurant ever since.

“We used to do tribute nights and that kept the restaurant busy also.”

Hundreds have sent messages to Vass after he announced his departure on fond memories they had at the restaurant and his departure is seen as the ‘end of an era’.

Vass, 53, has owned other restaurants across the North West including one in Glossop and one in Southport, but he said that Mangiamo was like a second home to him and has thanked the community for being so welcoming and loyal.

He added: “I have opened other restaurants but the only one that was ever in my heart was Mangiamo.

“I knew a lot of customers by their names and they knew me by mine.

“The people of Darwen have supported me, they have looked after me through thick and thin.”

Despite his love for the business he has lost a lot of time seeing his children grow up, missing celebrations and working most evenings.

Vass said that in spite of this, it has been a delight to see families in Darwen grow, with children who came in when they opened growing up and bringing their children in to the restaurant as well.

The business is staying in good hands as a previous manger, Hakan Sabat, who was at the restaurant 10 years ago has bought the business.

Vass also owned a part of Flames Steak Bar and Grill next door however he has also sold his shares with them.

He now plans to take some time away from work and enjoy quality time with his family.