Historic Rome Cafe Frequented by Fellini, Grace Kelly, Woody Allen To Close

The opening of "To Rome With Love" was filmed at the Antico Caffe della Pace

Petitions have been drawn up to save the Antico Caffé della Pace, but economics could be working against its survival.

ROME -- A historic Roman bar and cafe with connections to film industry figures ranging from Federico Fellini, Sophia Loren and Spike Lee to Monica Bellucci is at risk of closing down, sparking widespread calls for it to be spared.

The Antico Caffe della Pace, just off Rome’s historic Piazza Navona, has been a local institution since the 19th century, attracting posh Romans taking a break on their afternoon "passeggiata" (a traditional stroll) as well as tourists looking to soak in the atmosphere.

Diane Keaton -- during the filming of The Godfather Part III -- got so carried away in an argument with Al Pacino at the caffe that she slapped his face. She hit him so hard that kitchen staff had to rush out a bag of ice to keep the swelling on Pacino's cheek down, so that shooting on the film wouldn't be delayed. 

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The opening scene of Woody Allen’s To Rome With Love was filmed at the bar, and paparazzi have captured scores of celebrities there in recent years, including Leonardo DiCaprioJulia RobertsTom CruiseRobert De NiroMel Gibson, Madonna and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg

Further back, Pope John Paul IIJohn F. Kennedy Jr. and Grace Kelly, years after she gave up acting to become Princess Grace of Monaco, frequented the restaurant.

Rino Balilari, one of Italy’s best known paparazzo photographers, said the place was a must-visit spot on his nightly walks looking for stars.

“There is always a possibility you could run into a big name at the Antico Caffe della Pace,” he said. "People are drawn to it from all over the world."

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But now the owners of the building that houses the restaurant have filed papers to have the bar closed, reportedly to turn the entire structure into a boutique hotel.

The news has sparked several petitions calling for the cafe to be preserved as a kind of landmark. Newspapers have published editorials in favor of saving the restaurant, saying the state should intervene to prevent it from becoming a victim of economics.

But not everyone is convinced. Raffaella Menichini, writing in the pages of La Repubblica, said the version of the Antico Caffé della Pace that stirs emotions is already gone.

"The place is no longer an authentic spot,” she wrote. “Everyone in that area is turning their houses into places for tourists and fleeing to where they can really live and living off the rent. The Rome of Woody Allen, if it ever really existed, exists no longer. A petition is not enough to save the city’s soul."

Twitter: @EricJLyman