Tony Vicini, who left his native Italy for California as a teenager, toiled at whatever work he could find and first went into business in Santa Rosa serving cherries jubilee and a touch of class to patrons of his Los Robles Lodge, died Monday at age 82.
Vicini was still a young man when he left the hospitality industry for a new career selling property and building shopping centers, theaters and other commercial developments through Rogers, Jerpbak and Vicini Realty.
In retirement, he remained busy making award-winning amateur wines and olive oil.
"He was fiercely proud of being an American," said longtime friend and winemaking partner Sal Rosano, a former Santa Rosa police chief.
"And he was proud of the success he had," Rosano said. "He started with nothing."
Members of Vicini's family said they're grateful to him for passing on a conviction in the value of hard work, education and personal honor.
"For me, Tony was like a dad," said nephew John Vicini, founder and partner in Trecini Winery of Santa Rosa.
"I learned a lot from him. He had more energy than I did. He was amazing."
Vicini was born in 1930 in a centuries-old stone house in Jera, a village in northern Italy. Through much of his childhood he shared the house only with his mother, Marina, because his father, Giovanni, was working in Northern California and his older brother, Andrea, was in the Italian army.,
Life for young Vicini and his mother was lean, especially after Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini formed an axis with Nazi Germany's Adolf Hitler in 1936 and, four year later, entered World War II.