“In shallow men the fish of little thoughts cause much commotion. In oceanic minds the whales of inspiration make hardly a ruffle.”
A treasured quote of Alfredo Russo: by Yukteswar Giri
Sunday was a day for mourning when Alfredo Russo a beloved and respected member of the Fort Myers Beach community passed away on Sunday, May 29th 2016 from complications following the rupture of an aortal valve. Longtime restauranteur Russo had been an active member of the business community by preserving the historical and cultural landmarks of the beach. Russo has been in the food business for over three decades while simultaneously operating many important lcons on the beach such as, Junkanoo, a site he took over in 1987 and Fresh Catch Bistro. Mama Angie’s was just downstairs but closed in May of 2012. Russo later opened two adjacent restaurants the Playmore Tiki Bar and Sunset Beach Grill, located in Times Square, recently renovated from the Top O’ Mast building. The original structure was located over on Sterling St., which was actually part of the first school on Fort Myers Beach in the 1930’s later moved in the 40’s using tree trunks, Russo told the Sun Bay back in December. Russo also built the one of a kind “ship” restaurant in 1995 in Bonita Springs modeling the 16th century Spanish Galleon that was torn down in 2013. He demonstrated his love for the beach community last December during the grand opening when he said “This is so wonderful” over the live music, “this is emotional, because this will be my last grand opening, this community has been supporting me for over 30 years, and here it is again.”
Russo was born in 1956 in a little town near Positano, Italy called Avellino, located beside the Mediterranean Sea on the Amalfi coast. The Russo’s were a hardworking family of fisherman who made their livelihood catching fish daily for the seafood markets. As a kid in Italy he felt the pressure of securing the “good fish” for his family, but his grandmother assured him that “Grandson its fresh fish! How can you screw it up?” Like he told the Sun Bay Paper in Issue 20 “fresh seafood, local ingredients, It’s as simple as that.” Russo gave many jobs to people in our community including Executive Chef Pablo Felin at the Fresh Catch Bistro who only took the position after being a professional chef for over 30 years saying “I accepted it only because he gave me the latitude to be creative.” Ollie Curran, owner of Hair Etc. also said “Alfredo always had a big heart and loved employing people, my prayers go out for all those who worked for his businesses, but I’m sure his son will take care of them just like his Dad always did.” Russo will be greatly missed by the entire community and remembered as a creative, generous and astute business man of many accomplishments.
A brief search of Russo shows just how many people he actually affected, with everyone extending their condolences and expressing the loss of a man loved by all. Russo’s son, Franco Russo, a resident of California, received an unwelcome call but despite the distance he was still able to be with his father during his passing. Too many people Russo was like family and will be sorely missed by his friends and family. As business associate Joe Orlandini said, “He was loved by so many. Whatever he had was yours that is the kind of person Alfredo was. I’ve never known anyone like him. He loved the beach and all its inhabitants.” One of Russo’s favorite quotes used above, “In shallow men the fish of little thoughts cause much commotion. In oceanic minds the whales of inspiration make hardly a ruffle” reflects his wisdom and love for the beach.
The moment of his passing word spread down the beach like a tidal wave. It wasn’t long before every news source was writing about him, that’s just how loved and well known he was. The Fort Myers beach community has lost a man who encompassed the qualities of perseverance and generosity leaving behind an ocean of accomplishments that has rippled across the beaches. I think we can all agree that Russo was a one of a kind person, entrepreneur, father, and friend. To all those that knew him and are grieving the loss remember that he left behind a great legacy and lives on through family and friends.
There will be a Mass of Christian burial held Friday, June 3rd under the direction of Hodges Funeral Home at Naples Memorial Garden, Naples, FL. A wake is to take place Thursday, June 2nd between 5:00pm and 8:00pm. A friend of Russo, David Annaruma wrote Sunday “This planet has lost a true and amazing person today. Alfredo was the first person that my baby daughter Victoria would allow to hold her. That was 13 years ago. He has been a blessing to me and my family for years. He will be missed here on Earth; however he will be walking streets of gold with our lord and savior, my deepest condolences to Frankie and the family. May god be with you all during this sorrowful time.”