Raised in Italy by an American father and Sicilian mother, Tony Wright grew up in a place where daily life revolved around food, family, and friends. The three enjoyments were interconnected, unable to be separated from each other.
When Tony left his home at the base of Mount Etna for the Florida shores, he entered a new world and culture he had only glimpsed through his father’s lineage. He embraced his paternal side and made a wonderful life for himself in the States, but homesickness lingered in his heart… and his stomach. He realized that though he could satisfy his craving for the “Three F’s” of food, family, and friends in the U.S., it was rare they were all satisfied at once and on a regular basis.
“America is an amazing country, but it can be lonely. You can be surrounded by people and neighbors but find yourself alone most of the time. That doesn’t happen where I’m from,” Tony explains. When asked what he remembers most about growing up in Italy, Tony immediately replies, “I remember people! I see aunts and uncles and cousins, half of which aren’t actually blood-related. I smell food and hear laughter; it’s crowded but comfortable.”
Many of Tony’s childhood memories revolve around two locations. The first being a cafe-style restaurant that people come in and out of throughout the day to eat, greet, and get back on their way. The second is the shores of Taormina. Every summer, Tony’s mother would rent the same lido on the beach. Countless hours were spent under the big umbrella lounging with friends and family, swimming, and, of course, eating.
“I never understood how the servers on the beach made money. You’d order a cocktail and they’d bring it to you with a big tray of complimentary olives and chips. They cared more about making you happy than getting rich off you, and that made them successful.” Tony still visits every chance he gets, now with his wife, Isis, and three daughters. They jump off the same cliff together as he did as a child and reconnect with the same vendors that have served the town for generations.
Of course, with a flourishing new business in the Keys, they don’t get to return often, but they relish it when they do. “The first time I stepped foot in Taormina, I had an overwhelming sense of coming home,” Isis says. “It’s such a strange sensation to have in a place you’ve never been before, but the community is so welcoming that the city itself reaches out to you.”
It is those treasured memories and personal connections that Tony and Isis have inserted into the Italian Food Company, their authentic Italian market and restaurant that now has two locations.
“The close-knit Keys community reminds me of my village in Italy. That’s why I believed a community-based restaurant and market would do so well here,” Tony says. “You back that idea with Neapolitan pizza prepared by a real pizzaiolo and other authentic Italian dishes, and you have the perfect recipe for a successful business.”
Tony’s recipe proved so popular that they opened a second location in Islamorada less than a year after debuting in Key Largo. The second, larger location has enabled them to fit even more of the Italian experience into their customers’ visits. The Italian Food Company’s market sells the same pastas, sauces, and condiments they use in their dishes. Plus, imported olive oils and balsamics, classic Italian sweets, and hand-crafted products ranging from dishes to hand-painted lava tables sourced from Mount Etna.
Whether popping in during your day or settling in for an evening of fun, Italian Food Company provides the full Sicilian experience that brings food, family, and friends together.
–Jerrica Mah is a writer, Army wife, and freelance book editor, who loves to travel with her family.