Whether sizing up a kitchen design or reconstructing a melody, Nino Patete would close his eyes -- and wait.
"He would just stand there, processing it," said his daughter, Angela Patete Miller of Shaler. "Then he would get this look in his eyes ... ."
Mr. Patete, who delighted thousands over decades of playing his music at festivals and dinner dances from Wheeling, W.Va., to Warren, Ohio, Vandergrift to Station Square, died Saturday of cancer. He was 79.
At 21, he emigrated from Italy's Abruzzo region to Pittsburgh, skilled in music and cabinet-making. He had relatives in Bellevue and on the North Side, one of whom set up a date for him with Clorine Schiavi at a church bingo. Jan. 4 would have marked their golden wedding anniversary.
His woodworking talents led to work at local cabinet companies and the eventual founding of Patete Kitchen and Bath in Carnegie. He sold the business in the mid-1980s.
Music was his passion and, until recently, Mr. Patete would hit the road on weekends from spring through autumn, playing traditional favorites on accordion, guitar and mandolin. His daughter, who majored in music at Duquesne University, and Mrs. Patete occasionally sang to his accompaniment.
"He made everybody happy, no matter where it was. People loved his beat: the waltz, the tango, the cha-cha," said Eugene Romano, a tenor from Baden. "And he helped me so much."
Mr. Romano was a self-described "bashful" performer who was coaxed into singing songs of Mr. Patete's composition on stage with the composer and in a recording studio.
According to Mr. Romano, who also grew up in Italy, news of Mr. Patete's death prompted two regional radio stations -- WNIO-AM 1390 in Youngstown, Ohio, and WKST-AM 1200 in New Castle, Lawrence County -- to play the local musician's songs over the radio Sunday morning.
A few years back, Mr. Patete signed with Mifflin Hills Music Publishing of South Park. One of Mifflin Hills' specialties is licensing music to four "background music" companies, such as Muzak, and managing partner Vito DiSalvo said Mr. Patete's catalog was popular.
"He personally wrote, I'm guessing, well over a hundred songs," Mr. DiSalvo said.
The two met years ago because Mr. DiSalvo, a musician, also played at many of the same events. He added that Mr. Patete's musical talent -- his daughter said her father had perfect pitch -- wasn't limited to just a handful of instruments.
"He was even into technology, like electronic drums," Mr. DiSalvo said. "He was a very passionate musician, and people recognized that. He had a great rapport with his fans."
In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Patete is survived by two brothers, Robert and Ronald Patete, and by a grandson, Vincent Miller, for whom "Pap-pap" wrote "My Vinnie's Polka."
Visitation will be from 2 to 9 p.m. today at Bagnato Funeral home, Jefferson Street, Carnegie. A Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Tuesday in St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Carnegie.
"We are going to play some of his music at the funeral home," his daughter said. "We think he would have enjoyed that."
Maria Sciullo: email@example.com or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG.