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Good dish, goodwill rises from salute to fallen Carrabba's employee

TAMPA - Trina Minutaglio (center left) and Carrabba's Italian Grill president Mike Kappitt (center right, black jacket, black hat), participate in the Miles of Moffitt event Saturday morning through downtown Tampa. Minutaglio and Kappitt, along with more than 60 Carrabba's team members walked in honor of George Minutaglio, Carrabbas Vice President of Operations who passed away last January after more than a year of battling stage three pancreatic cancer. Scott Purks, Special to the Times
TAMPA - Trina Minutaglio (center left) and Carrabba's Italian Grill president Mike Kappitt (center right, black jacket, black hat), participate in the Miles of Moffitt event Saturday morning through downtown Tampa. Minutaglio and Kappitt, along with more than 60 Carrabba's team members walked in honor of George Minutaglio, Carrabbas Vice President of Operations who passed away last January after more than a year of battling stage three pancreatic cancer. Scott Purks, Special to the Times
Published Dec. 8, 2018

TAMPA — It's a dish created from love, made with many of George Minutaglio's favorite ingredients — penne pasta, sautéed bell peppers and romano, tossed in roasted red-pepper sauce, then topped and baked with meatballs and mozzarella.

Pasta Georgio.

On Saturday morning — minutes before walking in the Miles for Moffitt road race to raise money for cancer treatment and research — the mention of "Pasta Georgio" brought a beaming smile to the face of Trina Minutaglio, George's wife.

"It's something good that has come from George's story," said Trina, who helped create the dish.

Trina Minutaglio, along with other employees from Carrabba's, joined thousands of inspired participants at the 13th annual Miles for Moffitt event, held for the first time in downtown Tampa.

Many were driven by touching stories, including Trina.

In early 2016, not long after George became vice president of operations for Carrabba's Italian Grill, George started getting pains in his back and felt overly fatigued and began losing weight. He went to a doctor who believed George had irritable bowl syndrome. The doctors prescribed medications and treatments.

Seven months passed — involving more doctor's visits and more tests and a loss in weight from 160 pounds to around 130 — before a test finally revealed George had stage three pancreatic cancer, which was the moment Minutaglio first went to Moffitt Cancer Center.

From there it was 14 months of chemo and radiation before he passed away in late January 2018.

He was 48.

One of his best friends, Carrabba's President Mike Kappitt, said that what followed in the absence of Minutaglio's "relentless energy and love of life" was a need to do, "something good."

"So the Carrabba's team sat down and thought of ways to honor George and that included showing an appreciation for Moffitt Cancer Center, a place that held George's highest respect," Kappitt said. "That's when we came up with 'Pasta Georgio' and decided that for every Pasta Georgio dish sold we would donate a dollar (up to $50,000) to Moffitt Cancer Center."

It's a part of the story that warms the heart of Trina Minutaglio, who walked side by side with Kappitt and more than 70 team members from Amalie Arena through downtown Tampa, each wearing Carrabba's purple T-shirts with #fightlikeGeorge printed on the back.

Saturday also sparked memories of George's determination — who walked in the last Miles for Moffitt event at the University of South Florida despite being severely weakened by the cancer and the treatments.

"All of this has made me want to do more," said Trina, a nurse who may pursue more education to work deeper in the field of oncology. "I want to do something to help beat cancer."

Moffitt had hoped to raise more than $2 million at the event.

Contact Scott Purks at hillsnews@tampabay.com.