Get those legendary steaks and prime ribs while you can at Mario's. The popular Italian restaurant and steak house in the town's Saugatuck area, across from the railroad station, has been sold

Frankie DeMace of the family-run restaurant that his grandfather, Frank DeMace, started in 1967 confirmed the sale last week. His grandfather died two years ago and his business partner a few years earlier.

DeMace, a manager at the restaurant, said his grandfather told the family they didn't have to carry on the legacy. "It was always more for him," said DeMace, who began working at the restaurant as a busboy years ago. "He had me work at another restaurant before I came here and I worked my way up," he said.

DeMace said the family recently determined it was time to let the business go. "We are selling the business, but keeping the building" at 36 Railroad Place, he said.

The new owners will turn the restaurant into a wine bar, said DeMace. He added that the staff, which numbers about 55, will stay on for a year as part of the deal.

"Some of the staff has been here from the start," he noted.

DeMace said that everything in the restaurant was sold to the new owners. "We are only taken a few mementoes like statues and items of my grandfather's," he said.

The transition is expected to take place mid-April, DeMace said.

Vincente Siguenza, whose family-run company will be taking over Mario's, said the restaurant will be operated, as is, for about six or seven months.

"After that we will shut it down for several months," he said, to modify the restaurant's menu to emphasize American custom cuisine with Asian, Latin and Mediterranean influence, as well as an extensive wine list. It will be same as the offerings at two Harvest wine restaurants the family runs in Greenwich and New Haven. "We use the farm-to-table concept," he said, with much of the food from local and organic farms.

"We are very excited," he said of the new venture. "We absolutely can't wait."

He said the Westport restaurant, which will also be called Harvest, is in a "good location in a great town with great people."

Besides the Harvest restaurants, the family also runs 55 Wine Bar and Restaurant in Fairfield, Cava Wine Bar and Restaurant in New Canaan, and Scena Wine Bar and Restaurant in Darien, Siguenza said.

DeMace said he's certain loyal customers will miss Mario's. This included lots of commuters coming off trains, people planning to celebrate or just have a great meal.

Last Friday, the Charno family was gathered at a table by the window. "We come here once a month," said Michele Charno. "We love the menu and would like to see the new owners keep it."

"I was surprised to hear this was happening," added Betty Charno. "Everything here is always so tasty, so consistent and good portions."

DeMace agreed it was the quality food that kept customers coming back to Mario's again and again.

"Especially for the prime rib," he said. "That's what we're known for."