Tony Mascio; Italian Immigrant Had Zest For Life And Pasta Business
You might have called Tony Mascio a living version of the Italian Renaissance. He was definitely Italian. And he dedicated himself to the fine art of improvement.
Born in a small village outside Abruzzi, Italy, he came to Seattle in 1959 and did more than most who knew him could fathom.
He helped turn his wife's pasta-making business into a major distributor, Mascio's Italian Specialty Foods Inc., while working another, full-time job.
He and his wife, Flora, took exchange students and cancer patients who were complete strangers into their homes for months at a time. He was both cultured and mechanical, able to sing Italian ballads, speak six languages and add three bedrooms to a house all by himself.
Mr. Mascio died Tuesday at his Beacon Hill home after a long bout with cancer. He was 68.
The Mascios started their business in a house in Georgetown 30 years ago after Flora Mascio's pasta-making for a few clients outgrew their home.
The two persuaded a friend, Frank Isernio, to sell the sausage he made as a hobby and join the new one-room operation.
Now Isernio's business is Isernio's Gourmet Italian Sausage, producing 25,000 pounds of sausage a week, and Mascio's Italian Specialty Foods has 30 employees and distributes to buyers all over the West Coast.
``I just think this man was almost godlike on earth,'' says Isernio. ``If there was a 1 percent chance he could do anything, he would try. He was so critical to my success.
``I pray to Tony to guide my life.''
Anna Mascio, his youngest daughter and partner in the Queen Anne-restaurant Buongusto, said her father could ``get philosophical'' about the pasta-making process, from the amount of heat to use to how it should come out of the presses.
But his favorite part was simply ``the beauty of watching the machinery humming, making it work better,'' said his daughter Marci Merlino.
Mr. Mascio worked during the day for a Sears furniture warehouse - a job he left just a few years ago - while Flora made pasta all day. Then he'd come home and work at the food business for hours.
One of his inventions was a ``shaker'' that kept squares of ravioli from sticking together as they dried.
Mr. Mascio had a saying for everything, usually offered in more than one language. A rebellious teen-age daughter was told, ``That attitude leaves on horseback and comes back walking.''
He loved opera, especially Italian opera, and would raise his clear tenor voice at every opportunity. Friends at weddings and large dinners would beg, ``C'mon Tony, a song.''
He could be stubborn because he insisted on doing whatever he could on his own, Isernio said; as the pasta business grew, he sometimes found it difficult to delegate.
He encouraged Anna to start Buongusto. ``Even though my father has always wanted to see me married and domestic, he also knew I obviously needed to be employed,'' she said. ``Whatever it takes to make me happy, he said.''
Besides his wife and daughters Marci and Anna, Mr. Mascio is survived by daughter Fio D'Amore, and son Jerry, all of Seattle; four sisters of Introdacqua, Italy; a brother of Boston; and seven grandchildren.
A funeral service is to be held tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. at St. Peter's Church, 2807 15th Ave. S. Burial is to follow at Evergreen-Washelli Cemetery. Remembrances may be sent to The Foundation for Sustaining Care at Swedish Hospital.
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