Linda Seng, whose name has been on the La Cantina steakhouse since 1972 and who for many years was the omnipresent owner and hostess of what it the area’s oldest restaurant, died Wednesday, March 9, of congestive heart failure. She was 73.
There has been a steakhouse called La Cantina on State Road 50 east of Orlando since before 1947, the year Rudy Seng bought the business and rechristened it Edie and Rudy's La Cantina. After Rudy died, in '72, his son took it over and renamed it Al and Linda's La Cantina.
And when Al and Linda Seng divorced in 1984, Al's name was dropped, and it has been Linda's La Cantina since.
Linda pretty much retired from the business in 2004. When I did a story about the area’s oldest restaurants that year, Linda’s daughter Karen told me that her mom was annoyed after the state passed a law prohibiting smoking in restaurants. So she passed along the duties to her kids. It's still a family operation with daughters, Karen Hart, Debbie Tassoni and Lorie Coley and their spouses taking care of managing the place.
Linda Louise Seng was born March 18, 1937, in Carrsville, Kentucky. Her first restaurant job was at a Detroit restaurant called Cunningham’s, Linda told me when I first interviewed her in 1992. “I guess you’d call me a soda jerk,” she said.
She told me that the thing she liked most about owning a restaurant was, “Meeting all the people who come in, making new friends and retaining the old ones.” She told me she regretted the long hours and the demand on her time that the restaurant took, but she said her philosophy for success was to “always be there. Be prepared to devote 24 hours a say seven days a week.”
“She really instilled that in us,” daughter Debbie told me today from the restaurant. When I reached Karen on her phone, she, too, was heading out the door to get to the restaurant to open up for the evening. Debbie said the restaurant will continue as it has, and Linda’s name will remain on the building. “There’d be no reason to change them,” she said.
Linda Seng is survived by her five children, 10 grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren. Funeral service will be held Monday at 3 p.m. at the First United Church of Christ, 4605 Curry Ford Road, Orlando, 32812, with Rev. Joel Reif officiating. Arrangements are being handled by Carey Hand Colonial Funeral Home, Orlando.