After 60 years as a Route 1 mainstay for classic Italian dining, Anjon’s restaurant in Scarborough is listed for sale.

Owner John DiSanto, who took over the restaurant from his grandparents, said moving on is bittersweet, but he wants to focus on growing the restaurant’s upscale line of jarred pasta sauces.

“After 40 years, I just felt it was time,” said DiSanto, 59. “I can do this business in my sleep, there’s no challenge here anymore. I’m just ready for the next chapter, the next new thing.”

Anjon’s is listed with CBRE | The Boulos Co. for $1.36 million. The restaurant, built in 1954, is accessible by both Route 1 and Milliken Road, a location that sees 23,000 vehicles per day, according to the listing.

The property is a 180-seat restaurant and banquet facility with an adjoining parking lot that can accommodate 50 cars.

A major selling point of Anjon’s is the “million dollar view” over a salt marsh on either side of Route 1, DiSanto said.

Anjon's restaurant in Scarborough, shown in 1998, has been a family-owned fixture for 60 years.

Anjon’s restaurant in Scarborough, shown in 1998, has been a family-owned fixture for 60 years. Press Herald File Photo/John Patriquin Staff photo by John Patriquin

His grandparents opened the restaurant in 1957. DiSanto worked at the restaurant and took the business over in the late 1970s. He can remember the early days, when he paid his grandmother $300 a month in rent and brought trash home in the trunk of his car because he couldn’t afford a Dumpster, DiSanto said. He started as a dishwasher and busboy, and worked his way “up the corporate ladder,” he joked.

“I can still do any job here, I jump in whenever I have to,” DiSanto said.

It has been a labor of love, but now he wants to shift his energies to growing the Anjon’s pasta sauce brand. The restaurant has been jarring pasta sauce for more than 20 years and has a line that includes marinara, vodka, lobster fra diavolo and tomato sauce. The sauces are based on his grandmother’s 150-year-old recipe and only use premium ingredients, DiSanto said.

“We are very picky about it, if you know anything about Italians, we are very passionate about what we do, especially when it comes to food,” he said.

DiSanto sees an opportunity in the jarred sauce market and wants to expand the brand and sell it at national chains such as Whole Foods Market. The sauce is now made at the restaurant, but he has contracted with a Syracuse, New York, company for mass production.

“In a day’s time, we can only make 50 cases. The company we are working with can make a thousand cases in a day,” DiSanto said.

Shifting his focus to the sauce business also will give him a little more time for himself.

“I’ve worked hard my whole life, I’ve been here a long time, there are other things I want to do with my life,” DiSanto said.

“I’m almost 60 now, I’m no spring chicken. It can keep you up at night sometimes, my passion is there, but the 40 years of doing it, it makes you look at other things.”

Reaction to news that the restaurant was for sale met with mixed reviews, DiSanto said. Many regular customers are sad, but glad he’s going to keep the sauce, and the Anjon’s name, going. Some customers have been coming for years, and a few employees have been working at Anjon’s for decades.

“You need that family orientation. I think that is why we have been successful. Our customers, it’s almost like an extension of our own family,” DiSanto said.

Recent tax problems did not influence his decision to sell the restaurant, DiSanto said. In April, he was indicted on felony and misdemeanor tax fraud charges related to $10,000 in state sales tax he allegedly failed to remit to the state between 2004-2014. The case is now a civil matter and he is working with the state to arrange a repayment plan, DiSanto said. A spokesperson for the Maine Attorney General’s Office did not respond to a request for comment on the case Friday.

Although the restaurant is for sale, it will be business as usual until a buyer is found, DiSanto said.

“We are going to stay here and operate just like it is the first day,” he said.

“That is something we have done day after day, year after year, seven days a week.”