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60 Years, 2 Generations, 1 Restaurant

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Posted: Friday, August 3, 2018 12:15 am

Richard Accursio understood hard work and the willingness to take a risk. The large Italian family with roots in Sicily embraced the American dream and set about achieving it on different paths. At only sixteen, Accursio became a busboy at the famous Coconut Grove restaurant/supper Club in Boston. He paid attention to the kitchen and chefs though, picking up ideas. What he nor anyone else expected was the tragic fire that broke out November 28, 1942 when almost 500 people perished, and more than 150 were injured. Ironically, what he had been expecting was to be called up in the draft for World War II. His time as a soldier was delayed since he was required to be a witness in the trial that followed numerous investigations. It was not as if he missed out on action, however, as one of the units he was assigned to was among those who helped bring relief to the American and Allied troops surrounded in the infamous Battle of the Bulge.

In returning to Massachusetts, he entered the grocery business with one of his brothers to discover the post-war economic boom wasn’t enough to make the partnership profitable. Some of the Accursios had relocated to the Homestead area to take up farming and in 1955, Richard, now married with two children, brought his family south. It didn’t take long for him to decide restaurant work was where he belonged and if waiting tables was his entry, he would start there. The better restaurants were in Miami and even without today’s traffic snarls, travel back and forth as well as long shifts were his daily routine. That is until he found out the owner of Napoli Pizzeria on Krome Avenue was ready to call it quits.

In revitalizing the pizzeria, Accursio enjoyed the feel of success. What he didn’t enjoy was the landlord steadily raising the rent. The solution was to take all he had learned, the strong work ethic instilled in his entire family, a down payment for a loan, and buy an acre of land in Florida City for his own restaurant. With nearly five times the seating capacity, the Capri’s doors opened to guests. Fresh ingredients, personal recipes of Italian favorites, and the ever-present sense of community drew and kept customers; some who’ve been dining there with four generations.

Politicians from local to national level were a given and it wasn’t unusual to see sports figures, actors and other entertainers in for lunch or dinner. When Accursio nearly doubled the size of the restaurant in 1972 to hold 250, the “King Richard Room” kept the pizzeria flair as white tablecloths were used in the new larger section. Civic organizations had a regular place for luncheon meetings and plenty of anniversaries, birthdays, and other celebrations were commonplace.

In a profession known to be difficult to manage, Accursio once said, “I would have liked to have played tennis or golf, but I couldn’t. I had to be there every minute.”

For son, Jimmy, following in the family business didn’t include starting at the top. Bussing tables, waiter, cashier, even pizza cook for a while meant he understood every aspect of what his parents had created. After his father’s passing September 8, 2003, it was time for Jimmy to carry on with the local landmark.

Being a central part of the surrounding communities came more sharply into focus when Hurricane Andrew devastated the area. People struggled with no power, the loss of routine landmarks, no telephones, and trying to rebuild their lives. The Accursios rushed to bring back a semblance of normalcy and the Capri reopened within one month; a literal oasis in the midst of rubble. A piece of the sign that once stood on top of their building was eventually found in Key Largo.

Another “refreshing” of Capri was in 2006 when patio dining complete with fountain was added. A bigger “buzz” took place a little over a year ago when the Capri Room was transformed into Pub 935. An overflowing crowd came for opening night. “What a fantastic addition to our community,” Florida City Mayor Otis Wallace said at the time. “I really like the look and the feel of the place, and the shrimp and grits are awesome.”

“This is another rebirth of a restaurant I grew up with,” Homestead Mayor Jeff Porter had agreed. “This is like part of our family.”

The 60th anniversary of Capri will be marked by a number of specials. Those will be posted on their Facebook page and in the restaurant. “We’re still a restaurant that makes things from scratch and cooked to order,” Accursio says in reflecting on the decades.

And gone, but most assuredly not forgotten, the portrait of Richard Accursio hanging in the bar brings smiles of memories for those who knew him.

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1 comment:

  • Redlandhorselady posted at 8:15 am on Tue, Aug 7, 2018.

    Redlandhorselady Posts: 2

    I have many wonderful memories of the Capri. Great restaurant and wonderful family that owns it.