Carmelo LaBarbera, former owner of a family-run pizza restaurant in the heart of Smithtown, died Tuesday at St. Francis Hospital of heart disease. He was 83 years old.
LaBarbera owned Carlo's Pizza, in the center of Main Street, from the late 1970s through the 1990s. Born in Sicily and raised in Algeria, he came to America in 1947 at 21 years old and met his wife-to-be, Rose, while attending English classes in Brooklyn.
LaBarbera worked as a supermarket produce manager in the city and briefly owned his own produce store in Brooklyn before the couple moved to Smithtown around 1966. There they raised four children before moving to nearby Nesconset seven years ago, said his son Steven LaBarbera of Rocky Point.
LaBarbera continued to work as a produce manager at Long Island supermarkets until opening the pizza parlor.
Carlo's Pizza served the traditional thin crust pizza and fried calzones, but LaBarbera also ventured into the ices business, including Italian ices and homemade gelatos before the trend became popular, his son said. Carmelo and Rose LaBarbera ran the shop together, often working 80 to 100 hours a week. Steven LaBarbera became a partner in the business at one point until the family sold it in 2001. It is now called Manninos Pizza.
LaBarbera said his father would often give pizza slices to kids who came in with no money.
Family and hard work mattered most to LaBarbera, said his son, and his father believed a man's word was the most important thing. "My father did things on a handshake," Steven said. "Whatever he said he would do, he did."
He especially delighted in attending his seven grandchildren's many activities, whether it be a sports game or graduation party, his son said.
In addition to his wife and son Steven, LaBarbera is survived by two daughters, Lina Clemente and Denise Williams, both of Port Jefferson. He is predeceased by a son, Anthony LaBarbera.
A wake will be 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. Thursday at the Branch Funeral Home, 190 East Main St., Smithtown. A funeral Mass will be said at 10 a.m. Friday at Sts. Philip and James Roman Catholic Church in St. James. Burial will follow at Pinelawn Memorial Park.