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Prominent Valley chef, Tomaso Maggiore, dies at age 73

Tomaso Maggiore
Posted at 10:00 AM, Jan 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-30 20:06:33-05

PHOENIX — Arizona chef and restaurateur Tomaso Maggiore has died after a two-year battle with brain and lung cancer, his PR firm said Saturday. He was 73.

Maggiore was born in Sicily before moving to Arizona, where he opened more than 50 restaurants during his 40-year career, most notably Tomaso's Italian Restaurant, near 32nd Street and Camelback Road in Phoenix, according to a release from The Knight Agency, his PR firm.

He founded The Maggiore Group, a family-owned restaurant and hospitality group, whose portfolio includes Hash Kitchen, The Sicilian Butcher, and The Sicilian Baker. He also helped opened Tommy V's Osteria Pizzeria.

“Tomaso was not only my father but my idol and his love and passion for the restaurant industry, cooking and Sicily will continue to live on through our restaurants,” said son Joey Maggiore in a statement.

“It is my goal to honor his legacy and make him proud with amazing restaurants and delectable food. He is the greatest father, chef and friend that I have ever known and I will love and miss him dearly, forever.”

Joey is the executive chef at the Maggiore Group and founder of Hash Kitchen, The Sicilian Baker, and The Sicilian Butcher.

“My father was my hero and inspiration for all I do. My love for food, travel, people and the joy a great meal can bring to your life is derived from the example my father set for me,” said daughter Melissa Maggiore in a statement.

In recent years, Tomaso Maggiore opened Tomaso's When In Rome in north Scottsdale, but that restaurant was eventually rebranded to Tomaso's.

Tomaso's would be closed Saturday in remembrance of its founder.

In its release, The Knight Agency said the Maggiore Family plans to refresh Tomaso's to pay homage
to its namesake.

Melissa Maggiore, Tomaso's daughter, also has plans to open her own restaurant, called The Italian Daughter, near Pinnacle Peak and Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale as a tribute to her father. No other details about the restaurant were announced in the release.

Restauranteur and chef Mark Tarbell, who opened Tarbell's Restaurant next door to Tomaso's more than two decades ago, described Tomaso as passionate, funny, real, and genuine.

"He was a chef. He could work the room. He could bartend. He could do anything. His energy never stopped. He was always committed and into it" he told ABC15.

He recalled a story of when he first moved to Arizona. A friend wanted to take him to the "best restaurant in Phoenix" and that was Tomaso's.

"I’ll never forget how buzzy it was, how much energy there was," said Tarbell.

"Tomaso was in the kitchen and he came out and worked the room, and he came over to the table and said something I’ll never forget. He said, 'Mark, if there’s anything I can do to make your time here better, if I can do anything for you, please call.' And he gave me his number and that was it Eight to ten years later, I was his neighbor at Tarbell's," he said.

Chef Gio Osso, who owns Virtu Honest Craft and Pizzeria Virtu, said Tomaso was the "Godfather of Italian cuisine here in the Valley."

"He paved the way for Italian chefs," he said.

When he worked at The Estate House, a now-closed restaurant in Scottsdale, Osso said Tomaso would come in and eat there often.

"He’d ask me to see me. I'd come out to the table. He would be like 'don’t give me something on the menu, make me something else, something different.' So I'd go to the kitchen and I'd make him something different. I'd bring it out to him and, even though I was working, he’d be like 'sit down, sit down and talk with me. And out of respect, that’s Tomaso, you have to," he said.

He said they would swap stories about Italy.

The agency also said Melissa Maggiore will open her own restaurant, called The Italian Daughter, later this year in Scottsdale as a tribute to her father. No other details about the project were announced.