Antonio Marzetti, my main character in Manicotti and Murder
|Antonio Marzetti is second generation American. His grandfather came over from Italy to start a new life, eventually opening a successful chain of restaurants along the East Coast. His grandfather came over during WWII.
Antonio grew up as a tall, geeky kid, getting picked on relentlessly along the way. Once he got into high school, though, and could truly show his love for cooking in home ec classes and the like, he was more respected. Although he was often the one getting picked on, he would stand up for any other kid he saw being bullied. He often walked away worse for wear, with several black eyes and bloody noses to his credit.
He studied at the Culinary Institute in Chicago, and then abroad for a number of years. His father passed suddenly, in his last year abroad, calling him home to care for his family. He took over one of his grandfather’s restaurants, which were being run by other family members, but soon tired of the hustle and bustle of the eastern states and longed to move back to the Midwest, where his mother and sisters lived.
He found a suitable location and opened a restaurant in Illinois, hoping it would eventually surpass even his grandfather’s legacy. While he was a classically trained chef, he wanted something a bit more causal, where everyone could feel welcome, he soon found.
When he decided on this, he found staffing the restaurant to be an interesting task. Many people did not stay long. Others had issues which may preclude them for employment elsewhere, such as drug problems or some type of record. Another thing he soon found, though, was that many of these kids were the same kinds of kids he, himself, had defended in school. He started to take these young adults under his wing and groom them to greatness, or at least what greatness could be had in the casual restaurant setting.
This became his greatest joy in his restaurant. While most of his employees were young, as is common in the industry, he also employed some older people who had fallen through the cracks of the world and had not experienced the best life had to offer. Ralf Audrey was one of those. He was over, 50, divorced, and had struggled with a drinking problem for most of his adult life. Antonio liked him, though, and trusted him.
In fact, Antonio had enough faith in him, after five years of employment, to put him in charge of Handi Mani, the deep fried manicotti stand, at the local amusement park when Antonio decided he wanted to use that as an extra source of income, hopefully to open a new location in a town about 25 minutes south of his current Antonio’s Restaurant. He would call his new restaurant South of Italy. Ralf loved the idea of the new restaurant, too, and would do anything he could to help Antonio, who kept him from homelessness when he gave him a job five years ago.
Once Handi Mani was open, Antonio watched in amusement as Ralf became the object of affection for a regular park go-er, Rita Smith. What would transpire later, Antonio could never know, but he enjoyed the banter between the two, which reminded him of a college crush he had years ago. Since then, he had not taken much time for relationships, although he was starting to wonder, now, if that had been the best course of action.
Antonio was never short for a date when the occasion called for it. But he did not have that “one girl” he cared for much more than another. He was married to his restaurant, and was now about to turn even that on its head.
When Ralf comes to him with concerns he heard from Rita, Antonio feels he should stay his own line, but as the story unfolds more, and he realizes Rita is in danger, and likely Ralf as well, he knows he has no choice but to get involved. It is in his nature. Even if it might mean more danger than he has ever known before.