Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Steve Bonfili

Epilogue: Steve Bonfili was like one of his El Cap burgers — unfussy

ST. PETERSBURG — Steve Bonfili liked his El Cap burger with onion, mustard and a Pabst Blue Ribbon — the beer only when off the clock.

He kept the outside of El Cap nice and clean. He'd come early to sweep away trash, even when customers teased him. He swept, even years after he'd handed the place down to his son, Frank.

He didn't like dramatics. As he ailed with pneumonia, he made his wife promise that there would be no elaborate celebrations of life or cloying elegies.

He died May 20 at age 91. His family had a quick viewing and a simple Catholic Mass. His funeral notice in the newspaper didn't even mention El Cap, the St. Petersburg hamburger institution he operated for 17 years.

It was like his burger. Unfussy.

• • •

He was born in Pennsylvania, where he played football and baseball and rooted for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He thought he'd never leave.

He ran a bar and restaurant with his wife, Rose. They sold little sandwiches, beer, wine, liquor. Then, the economy took a dive. Business got bad.

Mr. Bonfili's half brother, Augie Donatelli, was a well-known Major League Baseball umpire working spring training games in St. Petersburg. He wrote Mr. Bonfili a letter about a business opportunity in town: a nice place where a lot of baseball people go.

They moved down in 1963 and bought El Cap. They didn't renovate or invent fancy new foods. They liked El Cap's simplicity, its small charm.

They served big league ballplayers, umpires and Little Leaguers. Mr. Bonfili chatted up customers with baseball trivia while his wife piled ham high on rye bread in the kitchen.

"People were nice and friendly," said Rose Bonfili, 86. "People liked us, which was very lucky. We made a lot friends, and the business just kept booming."

They started work at 9 a.m. and quit at 11 p.m. or later. They closed on Sundays. They had only one waitress.

Mr. Bonfili got a daily two-hour break from ground beef and buns. He'd go home to eat the dinner that his wife had prepared for him. His favorite was her spaghetti.

The couple had two children, Alida and Frank, who died of a heart attack more than 10 years ago at age 46. Frank's wife, Mary Jean, still operates El Cap.

Mr. Bonfili told his children that bartending was back-breaking work. He didn't put them through college to serve beer.

But in 1980, Mr. Bonfili was ready to retire. His son asked to take over El Cap.

Despite his well-meant advice otherwise, Mr. Bonfili was happy to hear it.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached

at shayes@sptimes.com or

(727) 893-8857.

. Biography

Steve Bonfili

Born: April 16, 1917.

Died: May 20, 2008.

Survivors: wife, Rose; daughter, Alida and her husband, Paul King; daughter-in-law, Mary Jean Bonfili; grandchildren, Karen and Chris King.

Epilogue: Steve Bonfili was like one of his El Cap burgers — unfussy 05/27/08 [Last modified: Friday, May 30, 2008 11:13am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trump sprinkles political attacks into Scout Jamboree speech

    GLEN JEAN, W.Va. — Ahead of President Donald Trump's appearance Monday at the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, the troops were offered some advice on the gathering's official blog: Fully hydrate. Be "courteous" and "kind." And avoid the kind of divisive chants heard during the 2016 campaign such as "build …

    President Donald Trump addresses the Boy Scouts of America's 2017 National Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel National Scout Reserve in Glen Jean, W.Va., July 24, 2017. [New York Times]
  2. Trump, seething about attorney general, speculates about firing Sessions, sources say

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has spoken with advisers about firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as he continues to rage against Sessions' decision to recuse himself from all matters related to the Russia investigation.

  3. John McCain to return to Senate for health care vote

    WASHINGTON — The Senate plans to vote Tuesday to try to advance a sweeping rewrite of the nation's health-care laws with the last-minute arrival of Sen. John McCain — but tough talk from President Donald Trump won no new public support from skeptical GOP senators for the flagging effort that all but …

  4. Last orca calf born in captivity at a SeaWorld park dies

    Tourism

    ORLANDO — The last killer whale born in captivity under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program died Monday at the company's San Antonio, Texas, park, SeaWorld said.

    Thet orca Takara helps guide her newborn, Kyara, to the water's surface at SeaWorld San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas, in April. Kyara was the final killer whale born under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program. The Orlando-based company says 3-month-old Kyara died Monday. [Chris Gotshall/SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment via AP]
  5. Blake Snell steps up, but Rays lose to Orioles anyway (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell stepped up when he had to Monday and delivered an impressive career-high seven-plus innings for the Rays. That it wasn't enough in what ended up a 5-0 loss to the Orioles that was their season-high fifth straight is symptomatic of the mess they are in right now.

    Tim Beckham stands hands on hips after being doubled off first.