Frank C. Maimone Jr., 53, of Fishtown, owner of Rustica, a Northern Liberties pizzeria, died Saturday, Feb. 8, in a skiing accident in Steamboat Springs, Colo.
“This was just a quick trip by himself,” his cousin and best friend, Charles Maimone Jr., said, adding that he had just returned from a skiing trip to Switzerland and Italy.
Mr. Maimone, skiing on an expert black diamond trail at Steamboat Resort, fell headfirst into a tree well, said Routt County Coroner Robert A. Ryg, who listed the cause of death as asphyxiation.
Mr. Maimone was born in Camden and grew up in Williamstown before his family moved to Haddon Township, where he graduated from high school in 1985. He attended York College and the University of the Arts.
“If I was having a bad day, I’d meet with Frank and have a drink with him, and everything would be fine,” said Charles Maimone, who at eight years his junior was like the little brother he never had. “I’ve never seen him angry.”
“If you met Frank once, even if only for a minute, you knew how special he was,” said his sister Patti Maimone Walker. “Frank had an energy that could fuel the world.”
Religion, specifically changes in the Roman Catholic Church, was Mr. Maimone’s passion. In 1993, while in his early 20s, Mr. Maimone went on a hunger strike to protest Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua’s decision to merge 15 North Philadelphia parishes into six and close four parochial schools, all in the poorest section of the city. Mr. Maimone was a member of Philadelphia Catholic Worker, a group of Catholic laypeople in North Philadelphia that cared for the poor, sick, and homeless.
Mr. Maimone also joined in weekly vigils outside the Archdiocese of Philadelphia offices. During one protest, a priest conducted a public “exorcism” to drive out what organizers called the “evil demons of greed” that they said were behind the decisions to close the schools. A week later, Mr. Maimone was charged with trespassing after he and another man, hoping to force a confrontation on the matter, sneaked into the cardinal’s suite. The charges were later dismissed.
Mr. Maimone began working in the pizza business at age 12, cleaning shops after school. In 1995, he bought his first parlor, Vito’s on Passyunk Avenue near 11th Street, and later worked for Randazzo’s on South Street. Brought in to manage Gianfranco Pizza Rustica on Second Street near Poplar in Northern Liberties, he ended up buying the place with a partner in 2002 and renaming it simply Rustica.
Rustica won fans for its pizzas, which included such toppings as truffled steak and caramelized onions; house-smoked brisket, brown gravy and mashed potato; and chicken cacciatore.
Northern Liberties was then in the early phases of redevelopment. Mr. Maimone quickly got involved with the community, said Mark Bee, his landlord at Rustica. “Everybody respected him for his hard work,” said Bee, who also owns local restaurants. “He put out a great product.”
Developer Bart Blatstein, a major player in the neighborhood who in 2006 began building what was then known as the Piazza at Schmidts, described Mr. Maimone as his buddy. “Always a smile and the best pizza in town,” he said.
Mr. Maimone also was involved with the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society, Fishtown SPCA, and Girls Rock Philly.
The business will continue, his cousin said.
Along with his cousin and sister, he is survived by daughters Isabella and Francesca; their mother, Mary Hogan; his mother, Patricia Wicker Kennedy; and three sisters.
A viewing will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15, at Healey Funeral Home, 9 White Horse Pike, Haddon Heights. A service will follow. Interment will be private.