The doctors would look at Vince Iannelli's medical report and then up at him and wonder if they had the right guy.
The man in the medical report was riddled with cancers that had invaded his prostate, lungs, liver, and bones.
The smiling, happy-go-lucky man before the doctors didn't look as if he'd been sick a day in his life.
"He had an inner spirit," his sister Donna Iannelli said. "I would say to the oncologist: 'Look at my brother. I see you don't believe the report.' "
Vincent T. Iannelli, 68, who operated a pizzeria and bakery at Ninth and McKean Streets in South Philadelphia called Captain Pepperoni and the High Rollers, died Saturday, Nov. 28.
At its height in the late '70s and early '80s, Captain Pepperoni's was possibly the liveliest eatery in South Philly. The captain himself would be garbed in a red satin cape, green tights, and a red cap on which there were Mercury wings and captain's bars, white sequins spelling out "CP" on his chest.
College girls (and one boy) would deliver pizzas around the neighborhood on roller skates. For added fun, he had motorcycles tow the skaters around.
And in the pizzeria, Mr. Iannelli would be hard at work concocting his latest topping to entice and entrance devoted customers who came not only for pizza but to revel in the presence of this vibrant guy.
He beat out 25 other restaurateurs to win a pizza contest on the old People Are Talking show on KYW-TV, and he proudly displayed the plaque.
Mr. Iannelli would arrive at an idea for a new pie and would take it to friend Frank Olivieri, owner of Pat's Steaks at Ninth Street and Passyunk Avenue.
Olivieri would give his analysis, and invariably it would become a new Captain Pepperoni staple.
At 5-foot-2, Mr. Iannelli was a force to be reckoned with, if in miniature.
And he never seemed to quit. While living at the Watermark at Logan Square, its publication Thrive ran a photo in its November issue of Mr. Iannelli in Halloween costume with a fake mustache and beard, a funny hat, mugging for the camera.
He hardly looked like a man with weeks to live.
"Vince has an amazing way about him, making friends wherever he goes," Thrive wrote. "Vince is a character that we love having around. He loves the ladies, and the ladies love him. Vince is inspiring, humbled, and thriving."
The Iannellis were longtime South Philadelphia restaurant owners. Mr. Iannelli's parents, Terry and Mima, ran an Italian bakery and restaurant at 1155 E. Passyunk Ave. that has been in the family for more than 100 years. The Iannellis specialized in the tomato pie. Iannelli's Brick Oven Bakery features an oven built in 1910; it is run by their grandson and Mr. Iannelli's son, also named Vincent.
Mr. Iannelli was born in Philadelphia, the only boy of four siblings. He attended St. Paul's Parochial School and St. John Neumann High School, now Ss. John Neumann and Maria Goretti High School. He dropped out at age 16 and went to work in his parents' restaurant.
Around 1976, he founded Captain Pepperoni and the High Rollers, possibly to commemorate casino gambling becoming legal in Atlantic City.
Besides his son and sister, Mr. Iannelli is survived by three daughters, Nicole Iannelli-Popolo, Luciana Linn, and Vienna Trotta; two other sisters, Paula Aldi and Carla Aldi; and six grandchildren.
Services were Saturday, Dec. 5. Burial was in Glenwood Memorial Gardens, Broomall. Donations may be made to St. Paul's Church, 923 Christian St., Philadelphia 19147.