Sunday, September 24, 2006

A Legend ~ A Life ~ A Celebration

Today is a bit of an homage to a man who is celebrating his 90th. Here at home base in Dallas. 50+ years ago he started the first of what would be the beginning of the Italian wave of dining. He actually used the word cucina rather than the more popular French word cuisine. He brought espresso to these parts, made his own bread, had his own pasta making room, a wine cellar, tableside service, strolling musicians, fortune teller and much much more. Il Sorrento was Mario Messina’s grand opus. And today several hundred of his close friends came together to celebrate his 90 years of life on planet earth.

His family and mine were close, his mom and my nonna were close, he and my dad grew up together. It was in his restaurant that as a young man I got bit with the Italian wine bug again.

Mario grew up in Los Angeles in the golden age of cinema. California in those days was pristine and innocent. The young boys would hike into the mountains and camp and cook over an open fire. Stars would burn bright over the Angeles forest. Life was good.

A football player at Notre Dame, after college Mario fought in WWII and was involved in bitter fighting “over there”. He was a prisoner of was and lost so much weight that he was close to imperiling his youthful health.

To come back home and open a restaurant had much significance. But to do it the right way, in those days, was an exceptional strategy. You had to be there.

So Mario, here’s to your health! Cent’anni!


Travel Italy said...

Perhaps some young pup will follow in his footsteps with passion for food and culture instead of the simplicity of cold hard margins.

Although his genuine lifestyle and service offering was innovative back when, it would most likely be considered insane today....

Anonymous said...

Thanks for recognizing the man who put Italy on the map in Texas and the Southwest.

History was made on Turtle Creek.

Glad I was there!

Anonymous said...

I always remembered the smell of fresh bread and simmering Marinara coming from the kitchen. The strolling violinist, and the gondolla at the end of the dining room. My parents lived a few streets north of the restaurant and we would eat there every special occasion. When I started selling wine to Il Sorrento, he would come out of his office to see what was new, every Tuesday @ 2:30pm.

Anonymous said...

Was great seeing the master celebrate a wonderful birthday. We miss seeing him at the helm of IL Sorrento. Was alway great fun visiting Mr. Messina when I was able to make it to Dallas. I worked for Mr. Messina for 12 years in Dallas and I must say it was a very enjoyable time. Always a great teacher, listener and great friend. I miss our daily chats. Wayne Mills 6533 Sparrowood Court Indianapolis, Indiana 46236

Anonymous said...

Did Mario go to Poytechnic High in Los Angeles?

Alfonso Cevola said...

yes he did

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