They called him “Tony the Tailor.” But he was also a masterful chef of Italian cuisine, a careful gardener with a green thumb and a loving father of three.
The multitalented Antonio Ventre considered two places home in his lifetime: Italy and Long Beach. He was born in Sant'Apollinare, Italy, on Sept. 16, 1940, and raised on a farm about 75 miles southeast of Rome.
As Ventre grew up, his family’s fields of vegetables grew with him, and he learned to take pride in maintaining them.
In the years to come, Ventre’s family would go back and visit that farm every summer. His wife laughs remembering how their three little boys ran barefoot through the grass, chasing chickens and picking up their eggs.
Ventre died on May 5, 2020, from COVID-19 complications. He was 79.
Before leaving Italy, Ventre dabbled in the art of tailoring. His eye for detail was a perfect fit for the trade; he learned how to stitch and sew and brought the skill set with him when he came to the United States in 1960. He was about 20 years old.
Ventre headed to Brooklyn to live with his uncle and cousins. He took a job working in a sewing factory, and that’s where he would meet his wife, Anna Maria Ventre. When they got married, they headed back to Italy for their honeymoon. Anna Maria was raised there, too, in a seaside city near Naples.
“It was two totally different worlds,” said their son Nicola. “But both were beautiful.”
Around this time, Ventre earned a tailoring certificate in Milan. He and Anna Maria had three sons: John, Joseph and Nicola. The family moved to Long Beach, and Ventre opened his business there: Ventre’s Tailor Shop. Every Sunday, he and his wife would head into New York City to buy materials.
Ventre’s shop served the lawyers and business professionals of Long Beach for 20 years, his wife said. Anna Maria said he crafted the finest suits and coats, and was well-liked with loyal customers.
“I never bought a suit,” she said. “He always made them for me, and made suits for the kids.”
He was also a patternmaker for the uniforms of the Nassau County Police Department and Sheriff’s Department.
“Everybody loved Tony,” said Anna Maria. “‘Tony the Tailor,’ they called him. He loved his job and everybody loved him. And they loved his cooking, of course.”
Nicola said his father showed his love through his cooking. It was another passion of his.
“Pizza was his specialty,” he said. “He had a pizza maker and he used to bring it to work and make homemade pizza for his co-workers. And he dabbled in every authentic Italian dish.”
Ventre cooked any kind of pasta imaginable, all accompanied by fresh vegetables grown in his garden in Long Beach.
“The garden was packed,” Nicola said with a laugh. “It was a small yard but he used to do so much. It caught the eye of the neighbors.”
There were tall trees with branches of figs and apples and peaches, with tomatoes and squash growing below.
More so than the clothing and the garden he left behind, Nicola will always remember his father by his unstoppable work ethic.
This year, Ventre would have celebrated 54 years of marriage with Anna Maria.
Besides his wife and sons, Ventre is survived by six grandchildren. A funeral Mass and memorial will be held at a later date.