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Ditka on his iconic Ditka’s eatery closing: ‘It’s over and it was good’

In an exclusive interview with Sneed, the legendary coach also said he can’t imagine the upcoming NFL season being played without fans and said he is OK with a slower life during COVID-19.

Mike Ditka said he understands why his namesake restaurant had to close.
Sun-Times files

Holy Grabowski!

Cancel da pork chop!

It was time for a chat with da legendary Bears coach Mike Ditka, whose namesake grub hub called it quits Monday after a 24-year run in the Tremont Hotel complex at 100 E. Chestnut street.

Hmmm. Was the iconic Ditka’s, which hit the quit button via a Facebook post Monday, another victim of the COVID-19 virus pandemic, as the post stated?

“Look,” said Ditka. “This virus thing is historic. But when all is said and done, it was a great 24-year run for the restaurant, but things wear out after a time. It’s over and it was good,” he added.

“No complaints.”

Ditka also claims “it was not an amiable situation with the new ownership at the Tremont Hotel, but they can do what they want,” he said. “Things change. The world isn’t going away because we are closing.

“There are new places to see and be. The old school doesn’t work anymore. We made a lot of people happy. Time moves on.”

Other restaurants in the chain will remain open, including a spot in Oakbrook Terrace.

Ditka had told Sneed exclusively last fall that the eatery was in danger of closing because it couldn’t come to terms on a new lease. At the time, the ownership of the hotel said they wanted the restaurant to stay, and the two sides eventually agreed to a one-year lease extension. But this time, Ditka doesn’t see that happening.

Hmmm. Would Sneed be remiss not asking the mighty Ditka about the possibility the National Football League — like other sports leagues — might not be able to play this season, or would hold games with no fans?

“Football is another thing,” said Ditka. “I can’t imagine the NFL not having a season.

“But football means fans ... and you can’t have football without them! Bet on it.”

Ditka’s indomitable wife, Diana, tells Sneed the couple returned to Chicago from their Florida compound May 1 only to find Illinois wouldn’t be opening back up anytime soon, as they had hoped.

“There just isn’t much to do. And the restaurant was our second home. Family,” she said of the eatery that was not far from their Chicago home.

“It just breaks my heart,” she added. “But my husband is more philosophical about it.”

What have the two been up to since they’ve been back in Chicago?

Since their return, the couple “watches a lot of TV reruns ... mostly golf reruns,” chuckled Diana.

”All I can tell you is that we’re in a 1,900-square-foot apartment and I still haven’t killed Mike yet,” she said.

Once an avid golfer, Mike Ditka, who had his 2nd heart attack just two years ago while golfing near his other home in Naples, Florida, has not been hitting the links lately.

“I’m not doing a whole lot and not getting any younger,” said the 80-year-old Ditka, who still occasionally lights up a cigar. “All those things that were once so important, I’m not losing any sleep over,” he said. “I like to play cards at Bob O’Link [Golf Club in Highland Park], but not playing is OK. It’s been a helluva ride. But nobody owes us anything.”

But Ditka did opine about one thing he certainly will miss:

“Our signature dish,” he chuckled. “It was one helluva great pork chop!”