Barbara Cummiskey Tacconelli, 70, co-owner of Tacconelli's Pizzeria, a Port Richmond landmark, died Saturday, Dec. 22, of heart failure at Kennedy University Hospital-Cherry Hill.
Mrs. Tacconelli grew up with 13 siblings in Port Richmond. At 16, she married Vincent Tacconelli and began helping him operate his family's pizza shop. The couple raised four children on the second floor.
Tacconelli's crispy-crusted, brick-oven pizza was always popular with locals. Its fame spread to the suburbs and beyond in the 1980s after it was chosen as a "Best of Philly" by Philadelphia Magazine, and was profiled in The Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News and on local TV stations. A special favorite with food writers was the white pie slathered with garlic and olive oil and a smattering of mozzarella cheese.
In 1986, when the pizzeria was featured on CBS-TV's West 57th Street, Mrs. Tacconelli told the Daily News that CBS wanted to contrast the Tacconelli family operation with franchise operations like Domino's Pizza. "They selected us because we're old-fashioned," she said. "We make good-tasting pies as opposed to good-looking ones. The secret isn't making a perfect-looking pie - the secret is making it perfect-tasting."
In 1993, the Tacconellis replaced their original brick oven, which had been built in 1920 by Vincent Tacconelli's grandfather John, an Italian immigrant who baked bread in Port Richmond's Little Italy section. The family began making pizza in 1948.
The replacement oven took seven months to install. "Our standards for an oven are as high as those for our pizza. That's why it took so long to complete the restoration," Mrs. Tacconelli told the Daily News.
She and her husband retired to the Jersey Shore in 2002, leaving the operation of the pizzeria to their children and grandchildren.
Mrs. Tacconelli hosted numerous parties at her home on the bay in Stone Harbor, visited the Wildwood boardwalk with her grandchildren, played the slots in Atlantic City, and shopped in Cape May.
Three years ago, she and her husband moved to Merchantville.
"A hard worker all of her life, it was the simple things that brought her joy," her family wrote in a tribute.
In addition to her husband, Mrs. Tacconelli is survived by sons John and Vincent; daughters Dina Woltjen and Tracey Rosini; two sisters; four brothers; nine grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.
Friends may call from 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 27, and from 8:30 to 10:15 a.m. Friday, Dec. 28, at Cassizzi Funeral Home, 2913 E. Thompson St. A Funeral Mass will follow at 10:30 a.m. Friday, Dec. 28, at Mother of Divine Grace Church, 2918 E. Cambria St. Burial will be in Resurrection Cemetery, Bensalem.