Emilio Rossitti steps out of his kitchen and surveys the scene in his Angelo’s Italian Market. Tables are filled with customers, and a line of more customers stretches from the register, past a glass dessert counter filled with pannetone, almond cookies and biscotti, and out the door. It’s two nights before Christmas, and Rossitti’s wife, Loredana, and sister-in-law are ringing up platters of cheese, salami and Sicilian-cured olives, chicken Parmesan, fresh meats and a rum cake. Rossitti’s daughter, Cristina, guides a party of five into the nearly filled dining room. Rossitti’s son, PierPaolo, has been catering two to three parties a day from Tampa to Naples all month.
“Every season gets better,” Rossitti says of his restaurant, carry-out, and market at Pinebrook Road and Venice Avenue.
Since Rossitti opened his first Angelo’s in a 1,400-square-foot storefront in 1991, the market has moved and more than tripled in size. So, too, have the number of family members running it. He started with four employees and now has 19.
“The final touch is the family touch,” Rossitti says. Among the staff are Rossitti’s three children (one still in high school), a son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law. Many of his other employees are from Italy, recommended to him by his Italian food distributor.
Customers love bantering in Italian and asking for hard-to-find macararoni (the name Italians give to pasta). The market carries about 50 varieties in all. Wine comes from 19 regions in Italy. Angelo’s offers 45 cheeses, and olive oil from northern-to-southern Italy.
“It’s a neighborhood market,” Rossitti says. “It’s a touch of home for people who are from New York, Chicago, Jersey and Philly to get those familiar foods.”
While so much of Angelo’s is all in the family, the name is not. “He looked at me like a son and treated me like one,” Rossitti says about the market’s namesake, Angelo Marchionni, who operated an Angelo’s Market in Connecticut. Rossitti, a Sicilian native, moved to Connecticut with his family in the 1970s and started working for Angelo’s as a teenager.
Marchionni had a daughter, but not a son, and he looked to Rossitti as his own. There was talk of Rossitti taking over the business someday.
But after a fateful visit to Southwest Florida in the summer of 1990 to visit his wife’s family, Rossitti’s plans changed. Most people abhor Florida in the hot summer, but it reminded Rossitti of Italy.
“I told my parents ‘there’s no snow, no ice,’ but they wouldn’t move,” he says. The couple moved with their toddler son, PierPaolo, much to the chagrin of Rossitti’s parents. The late Marchionni, though, followed Rossitti to Venice and helped him start Angelo’s.
When Angelo’s outgrew its space on east Venice Avenue and moved into its current location in the 2000s, they added more hot foods and a dining room with a few tables. Now the restaurant seats about 87, and they cater dinner parties as well as weddings.
As sure as Rossitti was that his business would be a success, he was also sure that his children would be a part of it. There are no prodigal sons in this story. PierPaolo, 29, and now married, went as far as St. Petersburg for chef school. But he left early because his dad needed his help at Angelo’s.
“I grew up in here,” says PierPaolo. “Instead of playing cars, my dad taught me the prices of salami.” PierPaolo’s wife, Florinda, is from Sicily, but he didn’t have to go abroad to meet her; she came to Venice about seven years ago to visit a cousin, a friend of PierPaolo. The cousin introduced them and they were married a short time later. When Florinda moved to Venice, she brought her mother, who now bakes the restaurant’s cookies, bread and fresh pasta.
The family members work in shifts so they can help each other at home, PierPaolo says. As far as a second Angelo’s location, Rossitti says maybe someday. For now, the business keeps the family busy. “It’s our family jewel,” says PierPaolo