Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Marie Antoinette Valenti

Marie Antoinette Valenti of Tampa was known for nurturing her family and making Italian dishes

TAMPA — It wasn't unusual to hear a small woman, standing about 5 feet 2, beckoning you to eat as you entered her home.

"Mangia! Mangia!"

When they were growing up, Marie Antoinette Valenti's grandchildren gathered at her house every Sunday for dinner. But it was more than dinner.

"It was always a 10-course meal," said Catherine Storch, her granddaughter.

Mrs. Valenti died May 12 of heart problems. She was 87. Her death came six weeks after that of her husband, Sexton, of Sexton Valenti Produce.

They complemented each other. He was a man with a produce company, and she was a woman who loved to cook. She was a seasoned Italian chef with endless access to fresh tomatoes and other Italian staples.

"She did great things with chicken," said her brother, Nelson A. Italiano, founder of Italiano Insurance Inc. Mrs. Valenti was best known for her chicken cacciatore, but her soups and desserts were a close second.

When Storch, 39, would spend the night as a child, she and her cousins would wake up to a homemade breakfast, complete with freshly squeezed orange juice from fruit picked off the tree that morning.

Storch knew Mrs. Valenti as "Nani" and grew up learning how to cook beside her.

"The recipe was to cook with love," she said. "She told me, 'I never write anything down.' "

Her meals also gave her an audience. Mrs. Valenti strived to entertain people. She danced and sang for her guests.

"She would light up any time anyone walked into a room," said Michael Sexton Faltau, her 27-year-old grandson.

"Even in her last days in the hospital, she danced in her hospital bed for the doctor," granddaughter Storch wrote for the eulogy Friday at Christ the King Catholic Church in Tampa.

Mrs. Valenti loved holidays, especially Christmas Eve.

"We'd go there on Christmas Eve, 50 or 60 people would come, and she'd have enough food for all of them," said Italiano, 80.

Her dinner guests included former Gov. Ruben Askew, who went to college with Italiano.

Mrs. Valenti knew politicians but never got involved in politics, Italiano said. Instead, she opened her home and her heart.

She never stopped moving. She played tennis, swam and could perform off the high dive. As a youngster, she was part of the pep squad at Plant High School.

As a young woman, Mrs. Valenti would make the trip to Tallahassee to watch her brother play for the Seminoles.

"She would always bring a snack or two for me," he said.

Italiano will remember his sister as a nurturer.

"Her station in life was that she loved and took care of her family. All 34 of us," he said.

Staff writer Amy Mariani can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226--3374.


Marie Antoinette Valenti

Born: March 29, 1922.

Died: May 12, 2009.

Survivors: brother, Nelson A. Italiano; sister, Marian Greco; daughters, Sylvia Accardi, Maralyn Berdan, Lisa Valenti; son, Sexton Valenti Jr; 12 grandchildren; and 17 great-grandchildren.

Marie Antoinette Valenti of Tampa was known for nurturing her family and making Italian dishes 05/15/09 [Last modified: Friday, May 15, 2009 9:49pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review: Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald team up to cool down the Clearwater Jazz Holiday


    A cool breeze swept through Coachman Park Saturday night. Couple of them, actually.

    Kenny Loggins performed at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday on Oct. 21, 2017.
  2. No. 16 USF hangs on at Tulane, off to first 7-0 start


    NEW ORLEANS — After half a season of mismatches, USF found itself in a grudge match Saturday night.

    USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) runs for a touchdown against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH103
  3. Lightning buries Penguins (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Ryan Callahan spent a lot of time last season rehabilitating his injured hip alongside Steven Stamkos, who was rehabbing a knee after season-ending surgery. During those hours, Callahan noticed two things about Stamkos: his hunger and his excitement to return this season.

    Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek (29) advances the puck through the neutral zone during the first period of Saturday???‚??„?s (10/21/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  4. Spain planning to strip Catalonia of its autonomy


    BARCELONA, Spain — The escalating confrontation over Catalonia's independence drive took its most serious turn Saturday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain announced he would remove the leadership of the restive region and initiate a process of direct rule by the central government in Madrid.

    Demonstrators in Barcelona protest the decision to take control of Catalonia to derail the independence movement.
  5. Funeral held for soldier at center of political war of words (w/video)


    COOPER CITY — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

    The casket of Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Miami Gardens, who was killed in an ambush in Niger. is wheeled out after a viewing at the Christ The Rock Church, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017  in Cooper City, Fla. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP) FLMIH102