© The Stoneham Independent

STONEHAM, MA - Though none of the more extreme rumors could be substantiated, a firestorm of speculation spread wildly across town early this week after Felicia's Restaurant in Stoneham Square abruptly closed its doors on Sunday night.

Earlier this week, many frequent visitors to the downtown fixture stumbled across a handwritten sign, describing the business as closed due to a "family illness", attached to the front door of the Italian-fare establishment.

Since that time, there has been wild speculation about the circumstances of the closure and the future of the business, such as talk about an apartment development being slated for the site.

"[T]hey closed their doors for good. We did not know that this was [their] last night," reported one Felicia's customer, in a statement posted on Monday to the restaurant's Facebook page. "Staff was notified the night before, so they were a bit upset…Great way to go out!"

"An old-school Italian restaurant that has been in business for more than 50 years has closed down," remarked another blogger from Boston Restaurant Talk. "According to a number of posters across social media (including at least one worker at the place), Felicia's in Stoneham closed its doors for good over the weekend."

As of presstime on Wednesday afternoon, neither town officials nor Stoneham's Chamber of Commerce, a business organization to which Felicia's of the North End co-owner Fred Puorro has long associated, could confirm any rumors - other than the fact that the local institution had not been open since Sunday night.

According to Jennifer Welter, the chamber's executive director, she too had heard quite a few of the more wild rumors, but as of Wednesday hadn't even confirmed whether the closure was permanent.

Welter, who has also recently been in contact this week with Town Hall officials, further stated she has neither seen nor heard about plans - formally submitted to the town or otherwise - calling for a redevelopment of the 4,094 square foot property.

"I know that all sorts of stuff is going around. I don't know how to respond, because I'm trying to get information myself," said Welter, when asked about some of the speculation.

"There's a sign that says, 'Closed due to an illness in the family,' but that's all it is, a handwritten note on the door," added the executive director, who emphasized that based on that notice, it's not even certain whether the closure is permanent.

The eatery, a family-business that moved to Stoneham from the North End of Boston in 2000, has flourished with a loyal customer-base packing into the small single-story storefront at 423 Main St. ever since its opening.

The small single-story building, which dates back to 1915, houses a small dining room and a horseshoe-shaped bar area. The property itself is listed by the town as being owned by Paul Puorro.

The popular institution, one of the few constants in a Stoneham Square neighborhood that has undergone a drastic facelift over the past decade, managed to thrive in the area despite the economic crisis of 2008 and a fire that briefly shuttered the restaurant

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