By Jane Bartnett
For Bruno Izzo, owner of Siesta Key’s Napoli’s Ristoranti & Pizzeria, there were fewer places on earth that he’d rather be than in his business.
A well-known fixture on the island’s restaurant scene, Izzo, who died Nov. 15 at the age of 86, was a well-loved member of the island community.
The day after his death, a posting appeared on the Napoli’s Facebook page that read “It is with tremendous sadness that we announce the passing of Napoli’s founder and owner Bruno Izzo. Bruno loved Napoli’s and his customers. He will be sorely missed.”
Soon after, tributes appeared on the page.
Carlos Solorzano Salomon Sr. wrote: “So sad. I always had a great time talking to him. Mi dispiace. Condoglianze.”
Molly Hurley, a former Napoli’s employee, recalled her days spent working at the restaurant. She stated: “So sorry to hear this. He was such a nice person and I enjoyed working at Napoli’s years ago.”
Heidi Ley called Izzo “a warm-hearted man, a huge part of Siesta Key.”
Izzo was at home in his popular Italian restaurant, greeting his guests and overseeing the little ristoranti that brought visitors and locals back again and again for nearly half a decade. They came not only for the pizza but also to enjoy his special Italian creations and traditional dishes, and to chat with Izzo himself.
Village Cafe owner Tommy Kouvatsos recalled his fellow restauranteur fondly. “We had a great relationship,” he said. “We knew each other as local business owners. Bruno would come over here and we enjoyed going to Napoli as well. He loved being in the restaurant business. In recent times, he told me that he was looking for another location where he could open again.”
During the course of the 46 years that Napoli’s stood as a Siesta Key landmark, it was housed in two Siesta Key Village locations. Izzo first opened on the Key in 1971 after he relocated to Florida. He brought a dash of international Italian flair to the sleepy beach community. His recipes for traditional Italian specialties such as stuffed shells Florentine, Zupa di Pesce, and Risotto alla Pescatora, harkened back to his native Naples and drew customers. His cuisine and the welcoming, friendly atmosphere made Napoli’s a “must visit” location for vacationers and residents alike.
Izzo paid tribute to his homeland by naming his restaurant Napoli, in honor of the city from which he and his family emigrated years before.
The eatery’s first location was in the heart of Siesta Key Village in the space that is now home to Gidget’s Coastal Provisions. In 2013, Izzo moved the restaurant into new space at 5200 Ocean Ave., in Key Corners Center. That location is now home to sports bar MVP — My Favorite Pub.
As the years went by, Izzo saw many changes in the business community and the island itself. The quiet little beach town grew and became more and more popular and business was good for Napoli’s and other small business owners. Catherine Luckner, the president of the Siesta Key Association, remembered Napoli’s the restaurant, and Izzo the restauranteur, with great fondness.
“It was such a fun place to go t,” she said. “I never remember a time visiting there when he wasn’t in the kitchen. The food was great. It was the place to go, a real local place.”
According to local news reports, following a legal dispute with his landlord regarding rent, Izzo moved out of the Key Corners location in October 2017 and closed the restaurant. He had planned on finding another location. A posting on Napoli’s Facebook page from Oct., 27, 2017 states: “We will be back soon!”
Izzo went on to thank his loyal customers and promised that “Napoli’s will be relocating to a new location on Siesta Key. Please check back when we announce our new location.”
Despite his fervent wishes to re-open again, Izzo’s dreams of a third Siesta Key Napoli’s location was not to be.