Luigi Listorti, a hard-working Verona grocer for nearly five decades who was renowned for his sausage recipe, died at home Thursday of lung cancer. He was 79.
Mr. Listorti grew up in Italy and came to the United States at age 18, where he had two things going for him. His father Michael, who died when Luigi was 12, had become an American citizen while working overseas, so young Luigi was a citizen, too. And he had extended family in Youngstown, Ohio, who helped him get a job, first at Sharon Steel and then at a local butcher shop also called Listorti's.
Despite being an ocean away from Castelbottaccio, in a way he was still at home surrounded by others from his tiny Italian mountain town.
But he still needed to strengthen his new American roots, first by joining the Army and then by getting married.
Though only 5 feet, 3 inches tall and 103 pounds, Mr. Listorti joined the Army in 1955 and spent two years in the armored infantry as a driver. When he returned he reconnected with Anna Narducci, 18, of Pittsburgh, whom he had first met at a wedding four years earlier and married her in 1958.
The couple resettled in Verona in 1960, and two years later Luigi and his younger brother Anthony opened their market. They would work there, often for seven days a week, for the next 48 years and build their reputation for sausage. And not just any sausage: in addition to hot, sweet, turkey and liver sausages Luigi ran an adjacent butchering shop for deer, which customers had him process into -- of course -- more sausage.
"It was all homemade in small batches. People traveled, honestly, from all over to get my dad's sausage," his son, David, said. "He was asked several times to grow the business bigger but he didn't because of quality control."
The market was noted for a couple other things. First, children knew if they approached Mr. Listorti at the counter they would be rewarded with a freshly cut slice of cheese. Second were the photos with movie and TV stars.
His oldest son Michael is a grip -- a lighting and rigging technician -- and got him onto sets and sometimes scenes of productions with Bruce Willis, Walter Matthau, Tony Danza and others in both Pittsburgh and Los Angeles. One of the Pittsburgh productions was "Sudden Death" with Jean-Claude Van Damme. On another set in L.A., he spent about 10 minutes on screen with Ben Gazzara.
The brothers sold the market in 2000 but Mr. Listorti stayed at work, helping his daughter Mary Beth at Giant Eagle in Monroeville. "Dad was never one to sit down and retire," David Listorti said.
He was diagnosed about a year ago with cancer, which worsened in the last month, and he was surrounded by family when he died.
Mr. Listorti is survived by wife Anna of Verona; daughters Mary Beth Miglio of Penn Hills and Luann Neary of Verona; and sons Michael of Burbank, Calif., and David of the Central North Side.
A Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Monday in St. Gerard Majella Church, 121 Dawn Drive, Verona.
Tim McNulty: email@example.com or 412-263-1581.