TAMPA — Raised in Ybor City before the second World War, Angelo Cacciatore perfected the art of the Cuban sandwich, drawing lunchtime crowds to his Silver Ring Sandwich Shop on Seventh Avenue.
Most folks knew him only as "Speedy Brown," the exuberant shop owner who loved snaring grouper and rarely missed a New York Yankees game.
Mr. Cacciatore died Sunday from complications of an infection. He was 90.
He spent his final days surrounded by his family, including his wife of 59 years, Lydia Cacciatore, and his two daughters, Ember Prida and Michele Reyno, and savoring his favorite culinary treat, spaghetti.
The day before he died, he watched his beloved Yankees beat the New York Mets.
Born in 1917, Mr. Cacciatore grew up in Tampa and thrived in the vibrant culture of immigrants in Ybor City, where his family ran a meat market. He loved languages and spoke Spanish, French, Italian and English.
He served as a supply sergeant in the Army in World War II and was stationed in Italy.
He met his wife, Lydia, when he was being treated at the hospital where she worked. The two met again at a dance.
He asked her onto the floor with him.
"He was good dancer. I was a bad one," she said. "It started there."
Two years later, they married.
In 1947, he bought the Silver Ring. He specialized in Cuban sandwiches and built the restaurant into a local institution, serving business people and cigar factory workers alike.
"He was just a one-man show for a while," Prida said.
His children remember helping out, waiting tables after church on Sundays.
His sandwiches won awards. He even shipped them in dry ice to Washington, D.C., so a local congressman wouldn't be deprived. He was such an active, energetic man that people started calling him "Speedy," his wife said.
He retired in 1985, focusing instead on fishing, baseball and enjoying time with his family, which now includes five grandchildren.
Cacciatore and his wife also traveled. They went to nearly every World Series. They saw Europe and Mexico.
"He was a real hard worker, a good provider and a wonderful husband, brother, you name it," she said. "He was something else."
Timothy Booth, a longtime family friend, took over the business.
The Ybor City location closed, but other locations opened. Booth is starting a Silver Ring Cafe near his home in Wesley Chapel. Each restaurant has pictures of Cacciatore.
Booth misses him already.
"He had just a huge life force in him," Booth said. "You always enjoyed being in his light."
News researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Abbie VanSickle can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3373.