NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The owners of a popular pizza restaurant in New Haven are promising to reopen and rebuild after a fire damaged their business, one week ago.

Abate’s Apizza & Seafood Restaurant is a staple for many on Wooster Street, known for its pizza and Italian dishes.

In the 90s, the restaurant made headlines and history when former president Bill Clinton stopped by. 

Louis and Loretta Abate first opened the restaurant more than three decades ago, but it’s much more than a business, it’s also their home.

“We lived here, worked here every day for the last 31 years,” Loretta Abate said.

At 2:15 pm on May 11, the Abate’s never expected to lose nearly everything when a fire ignited and quickly spread along a flu pipe from their pizza oven.

They called the ordeal a nightmare.

“One of my pizza men said you better get out of the building the top of the oven is on fire,” says Louis.

He said his employees tried to put out the fire with three to four fire extinguishers but were unable to.

“So unreal.. We’ve always been so careful. We just never imagined this. Never,” Loretta Abate said.

New Haven fire officials said the blaze burned through the attic and was difficult to put out. The damage is still visible along the sides of the building.

“It’s total devastation and we really can’t think about it. We just have to take one day at a time and hope for the best,” Loretta Abate said.

It’s an emotional time for the couple, as they try to find a place to live, revive their business and get their 28 employees back to work.

“Where can I go? What can I do? How fast can I reopen? – That’s the only thing I can think of right now,” Louis Abate said.

As they navigate the loss, the Abate’s are steadfast in their mission to find a temporary space to continue serving food to their loyal customers, until they can rebuild on Wooster Street.

“God has a plan. We just got to hope that it all works out for us in the end. Our customers are dedicated. It will take time for us to come back, but I know our customers will,” Loretta Abate said.

The owners say the support from customers has been overwhelming, with many facetiming and sending heartfelt messages.

“We’re just trying to get going as fast as we can for everybody’s sake. Not only for us, but for our family and all of our people that have been with us for 20 years or more,” Louis Abate said.

Louis and Loretta are actively looking for a temporary space and hope to announce where they’ll be opening soon.