Enrico "Eddie" Marisi, who owned and operated Sam's Hudson Beach Snack Bar for 17 years, died Tuesday after suffering a heart attack.
Mr. Marisi, 53, was taken to Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point on Tuesday morning after he awoke with chest pains. Doctors tried twice to restart his heart.
"Everyone in Hudson and Pasco is going to miss this guy," said Bruce Hermann, who knew Mr. Marisi for about eight years and met his future wife at Sam's. "He was a hell of a nice guy, and he put his heart and soul into that place."
Mr. Marisi's restaurant has become a local landmark where customers come for vivid sunsets, spicy wings and cold beer.
Describing it as "the only place in Hudson to hang out," Hermann gave high marks to Sam's "good food, good beer and good times with nice Florida scenery."
Mr. Marisi, who was born in Italy, could often be found working alongside his wife, Grace, and daughter, Sara, in the restaurant that grew to personify its owner.
"Sam's was a stress factor, but it was him," his wife said. "It was his baby, something he raised up and created. Everything about him went into that place.
"My husband was a worker and he believed in doing things to the utmost. There was not a person who came on that deck he didn't try to please."
Danielle Wright, 17, just began working at the restaurant but has known the Marisis as family friends most of her life.
"He was a great guy to work for," Wright said. "Sunday, he had the band there and he was joking and laughing. He told me to come back at 5 on Tuesday."
But when Wright arrived, the restaurant was closed and remained closed to all but family and close friends Wednesday. Family members said Sam's might reopen its doors for business next week.
"We're going to try to maintain what was done over there and try to maintain on the same level we always did," Mrs. Marisi said. "We're short a lot of backbone up there now, but we have one daughter, Sara, who's been working there since she was 11 and she's exactly like my husband.
"Now she's walking in his shoes."
The Marisis are known for civic involvement ranging from holding political events at Sam's to sponsoring local soccer teams and beauty pageant contestants.
His wife described Mr. Marisi as a vibrant man who, when he wasn't working, cultivated a love of fast cars and boats. He also liked riding his motorcycle.
"He did things discreetly but he always tried to give back something," Mrs. Marisi said. "We always supported wherever and whenever we could."
In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Marisi is survived by two brothers, James and John, both of Massapequa, N.Y.
Mr. Marisi, an Army veteran of the Vietnam War, will be buried with honors at Bushnell. Arrangements are being handled by Bell Funeral Home in Bayonet Point.