TAMPA — Tony Scaglione's childhood dream was to own his family's restaurant.
So in 1967, when his father offered to sell the eatery at the bargain price of $1, a then-37-year-old Mr. Scaglione immediately said yes.
But, as the story goes, with a straight face he then jokingly asked to borrow two dollars.
That playful banter helped turn what had been called Americus Restaurant into the beloved institution known as Tony's Ybor Restaurant.
"My dad changed the name because that was what everyone started calling it on their own," said Larry Scaglione, 55, Mr. Scaglione's son and business partner. "They wanted to see Tony. They wanted to go to Tony's restaurant."
Mr. Scaglione died on July 17 at the age of 87 from prostate cancer.
Despite his illness, he worked at the Ybor restaurant until June 30.
"Everyone has a passion for something in life, and this was his," Larry said.
Mr. Scaglione was the "court jester of the family," the type of man who would trick grandkids into repeating Italian curse words to anger prudish relatives, son Joseph Scaglione, 61, said.
"He rarely had a moment he was somber. He always tried to lighten the mood, whether he was home or at the restaurant. He seemed to have a joke for all his regulars."
Fran Costantino, a restaurant customer for 65 years, said without Mr. Scaglione cracking jokes, there will be a void at the cafeteria-style restaurant.
"When I would go in with my dad, Tony would always say he can't flirt with me today because he's scared my dad will give him the evil eye," Costantino said with a laugh. "He had such a sense of humor and was always smiling."
Mr. Scaglione's father Nunzio opened the restaurant located at 2001 N 22nd St. in 1929.
The eighth of 10 siblings born and raised in Ybor, Mr. Scaglione started working in the family business when he was 9. From that point, his only extended break came when he served in the Korean War.
Just before he left for boot camp, Mr. Scaglione met his future wife, Loner. And of course, it happened at the restaurant.
A Georgia native, she stopped there for lunch while in Ybor to visit her sister, who worked across the street at a cigar factory.
He invited her to the movies. She countered with a trip to the beach. While there, she stepped on a piece of glass and had to be taken to the hospital for stitches.
Mr. Scaglione would later quip it made for the best first date because she couldn't run away.
When he returned from the military two years later, Loner moved to Tampa and they worked side-by-side until her death 12 years ago.
"He was sentimental about love and having a lifetime partner," said Gene Siudut, a customer for 20 years. "Tony had a lot of love in his heart and was a consummate family man."
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Every workday for the last 34 years, Mr. Scaglione and his son Larry would eat together at 2 p.m. when the lunchtime rush was over.
"I'm very fortunate to have worked with my father for so long," Larry said. "Most don't get that opportunity. It was an honor."
Contact Paul Guzzo at email@example.com. Follow @PGuzzoTimes.