2003-05-02 / Columnists

Chatting with Chapey

A Tribute to Joe DeCandia
by Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey, Democratic District Leader
Chatting with Chapey

Dr. Geraldine ChapeyDr. Geraldine Chapey

by Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey, Democratic District Leader

A Tribute to Joe DeCandia

On Friday, April 25, Roma View Catering hosted one of the most elegant and enjoyable dinners that I have ever attended.  It was a special tribute to Joe De Candia - the founder and owner of Roma View who died almost a year ago. It was a fitting salute to his life and accomplishments.

The evening was exhilarating and invigorating. The cocktail hour was lavish.  The dinner itself was fit for a king and queen. The presentation of the affair and the quality of the service were extraordinary.

Clara De Candia, Joe’s wife, produced and directed a magnificent video tribute highlighting the life and times of an extraordinary man, Joe DeCandia.  It was a moving tribute to a man who had accomplished so much in such a short time. Clara lovingly presented the heart and soul of Joe and shared it with us through the video. He was a family man, a businessman, and a religious man who cared deeply about his fellow man.

Joe De Candia emigrated from Italy in his early twenties, met the beautiful and charming Clara Scarda and married her. They have two bright and energetic children:  Joseph DeCandia, Jr. who operates Lenny’s Clam Bar and Maria DeCandia Abbaticchio who is the banquet manager at Roma View. Both children appreciated the core values and professionalism they learned at home and have followed their family in the restaurant business.  After all, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.

Joe De Candia brought to America the strong traditional Italian values he learned from his mother and father - Maria and Felicetti De Candia in Molfetta, Bari, Italy.  He had a deep religious faith, strong family values, an excellent work ethic, a sense of integrity and a commitment to friendship and community. Joe brought these qualities and values into his own family with Clara.  He enjoyed bringing his family together and reinforcing its solidarity and continuity.  Above all his good qualities, Joe put his family first.  He was a family man. The video presentation strongly reinforce this priority in his life.

Joe DeCandia had a strong sense of his Italian tradition. He knew that in his restaurant he could offer people a pleasant and hospitable atmosphere and predictably excellent quality food.  In addition, Joe was amazingly creative and flexible. He had an air of optimism when he decided to try a new recipe, a new menu or a new business venture. He captured the true American spirit. He was adventurous.

The video presentation clearly depicted his pioneer spirit. He possessed the talent, finesse and the drive to appear in his own commercials on television advertising his restaurant.  Those ads were remarkable. It made his restaurant come alive. Here was the owner himself inviting the viewers to his establishment.  He had a definite theatrical flare and keen business acumen.

Another part of the presentation highlighted his wonderful sense of humor.  His appearance on the Regis Philbin show was fantastic.  I am sure that Regis Philbin considers it one of the highlights of his career.

When Joe had a dream he wasn’t afraid to reach for the stars.  Many people have ideas, but Joe De Candia was able to execute them.

People from all walks of life loved Joe DeCandia because he always extended a helping hand to any one in need.  The dinner journal notes that he sponsored a "Run-a-Thon" to help the families who lost people in the Pan Am air tragedy. He even extended himself to help the soldiers returning from "Desert Storm" by making 3,000 pizzas for them. These are a few of his charitable endeavors.

In 1976, Joe DeCandia had a life changing experience.  He was hit by a car on Cross Bay Boulevard. He truly felt that his life was saved by Saints Cosma and Damiano.  He believed this because as a child he had been sickly and his mother prayed to the saints for his protection and well being. He knew that the saints had heard his mother’s prayers and continued to protect him on the day of the accident in Howard Beach.

In 1990, the International Society of SS. Cosma and Damiano was organized as a not-for-profit organization by Joe DeCandia and designed to raise money for numerous charities.

This year Joe DeCandia’s son, Joseph, became the president of the International Society of SS. Cosma and Damiano continuing the important work that his father had started.  Contributions, of $10,000 each, were made at the dinner last Friday to St. Francis Hospital, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and NAAR (National Association for Autistic Research). Representatives were on hand to accept the donations. Contributions will also be made to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. A total of $40,000 was donated.

Congratulations to Clara DeCandia and her son, Joseph, and daughter Maria for being willing to devote their time, talent and expertise to helping others.  May you continue this good work for many years to come.

We are richer forever for having known Joe DeCandia and for having him as an integral part of our community as a friend and a neighbor. He touched each person in life or through that remarkable video in a way that will always be remembered.

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