Nicholas "Pizza Nick" Finamore, a restaurateur known for his big heart and mouth-watering pizza, was in his element the 38 years he co-owned Abruzzi's, where Seattle's NikeTown now stands.
With his brother, Joe, and father, Angelo, he opened the pizzeria in 1956. He catered to sports stars and attorneys as well as clerks, journalists and street people.
Mr. Finamore seemed to know everyone. He hired streetwise help and slipped free pizza to students and other needy types. He asked college athletes and law students to repay him when they made it, with sports tickets or legal advice.
Many of them made good on their promises, returning with their business and their stories.
He kept Abruzzi's going through the 1980s, when humbler shops at Sixth Avenue and Pike Street began making way for fancier establishments. In 1994 he finally folded Abruzzi's, which one columnist called "the best pizza shop in town."
Mr. Finamore died Thursday (April 13) of cancer. He was 66.
"He was like a legend in the way he was and in his background," said his brother, Joe Finamore, who owns Guiseppe's Italian Restaurant and Lounge in Bellevue.
"Abruzzi's was a colorful place, like you'd find in New York. You'd get lines out the door, and a sailor coming in with a case of beer on one shoulder and a blonde on each arm. A lot of local pizza places got their start because of Abruzzi's, which trained many people. Before that, Seattle didn't know what pizza was."
Mr. Finamore was born and reared in Chicago. His father, from Italy's Abruzzi region, worked in a pizzeria. The Seattle pizzeria was named for that area, and some of its recipes originated there. Mr. Finamore's mother was from Tuscany.
Mr. Finamore served in the Army, then moved with his family to Seattle where they were partners on the pizzeria that became an immediate hit with the downtown crowd.
"He was there almost every day, even when they were open late, and was a good cook," said his former wife, Mary Lou Figetti, to whom he was married 10 years. "Billy Martin of the Yankees came in when he was in town, and actors like Chuck Connors. Many people in Seattle knew Nick."
Also surviving are children Nicholas Finamore Jr., Seattle; DeAnn Finamore, Lynnwood; and Sybil Finamore and Cheryl Piper, both of Simi Valley, Calif.; a sister, Annette Wilkes, Las Vegas; and two grandchildren.
A memorial gathering was held. Remembrances may go to the American Cancer Society, 2120 First Ave. N., Seattle, WA 98109.
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