How it started and the life lessons that got me here- Pappagallo’s Satellite Beach 321-773-7272 started as a one man operation back in 1990, not because it was intended to be that way, it’s just I couldn’t find anyone else that would work 7 days a week for free.


After the first few months at the first location, it only had seating for 20 and take out service. The first added staff member was for delivery and just general help around the store.

Pappagallo’s quickly became the place that staff member brought their friends to work. First employee didn’t have solo status for long as he didn’t want to work 7 days a week either.


Looking back to those early days I really wish I would have the foresight to keep staff bios for the team members that have come and gone over the years Pappagallo’s Satellite Beach 321-773-7272 began to pride itself on its low turnover rate for staff, this industry is notorious for constant turnover. Make no mistake we do loose staff for same reasons any other business would, but our core team usually stays intact for several years and we only loose them when they go off to college or actually finish school and start their permanent career.


What I always find interesting is how many come back and pick up shifts or even come back to the tell us this was the best job they ever had. I consider that a compliment and an honor.

It may be hard to believe, since Pappagallo’s Satellite Beach has been around since 1990 that there was “life before pizza”. You see I grew up in a family run Italian restaurant located in Cape Canaveral, my parents, along with my older brother Jeff and younger sister Valia and myself, operated Rich’s real Italian restaurant from 1982-1989ish.


Being involved in a family run place was the greatest experience you can get when you start out and learn the ropes, you see when you work with people you were born to trust, sometimes family matters cross over into day to day operation but knowing that you’re brother sister and parents are working alongside you always insures that no one is slacking on their share of the responsibilities.

I thought for a short time that restaurant life was not for me so I ventured out on my own, I really didn’t know what I was going to get into so I ended up in construction, namely electrical work. I had a friend who was running the electrical crew building a Walmart store in Indian Harbor Beach. I spent a year working on building two of those stores, I still frequent the Indian Harbor Beach store as it is less than a mile from Pappagallo’s in Satellite Beach.


After the 2 Walmart stores were built it was time to either get a new job in the electrical field or move into something else.


Have you ever looked back at a seemingly small decision and realize that one small choice literally change your outlook on the rest of your life.


As the Walmart jobs came to an end, a casual conversation with my uncle Johnny, he ran an engineering firm that also owned a construction company; it seemed like a natural decision to take another job with family so I went to work with him.


John shaped the way I looked at business and people in a work environment that stays with me to this day. A little background on our relationship before I went to work “with” (John would never allow anyone to say they worked “for” him) like I said John was very humble about what he had accomplished up to that point of his life, he was confident in what he did, he was the best at what he did, he just never felt the need to tell anybody those facts.


John and I developed a special bond through scuba diving, I was in my very early 20’s and John was at the top of his game professionally, I spent most of my weekends on John’s boat surrounded by many men who were older and wiser than I but they never treated me less than one of the guys.

John knew my job building Walmart’s had ended and I was interviewing at local electrical contracting companies, he casually asked if I wanted to come work “with” him and move some dirt. John’s construction company did site work and building of roads connected with development. I really didn’t know what any of that meant but I looked up to John and really wanted to see how he mastered his craft, I wanted to see what made that man tick.


After a very short conversation John offered me a job but made clear the following guidelines:

Number one- work is work, when we were at work our relationship was based on the job at hand and there would be no special considerations because I was related to him.

Number two- when we are out of the job situation rule number one stayed at work, when we were diving we were just dive buddies and work didn’t go out on the boat.

I was totally fine with these guidelines, see I respected that man and had no problem looking at him as my boss, although he never treated me as an employee.


Pappagallo’s was still a few years in my uncertain future so I spent almost a year at John’s construction company during the week, watching him run 3 separate businesses at once, I would marvel at how he seemed to know everything that was going on in every business and if someone got stuck in something regarding their job, John would rattle off the solution effortlessly.

Weekends would be spent on the dive boat with these successful local business men who I would listen to for hours trying to figure out how they got where they were.


A little known part of this story (I’m sure all the guys knew but John never mentioned it) John always kept things separate and treated me as an equal, he gave me respect as a man that I had not yet earned.

I was a 20 year old kid who definitely couldn’t afford to go diving every weekend, John knew how much I made, after all he signed my paycheck, I got paid well for the job I did but with a young family just starting out I couldn’t afford my share of the dive fund for any given weekend. I gave what I could and John often wouldn’t accept.


John never made me feel like I owed him anything for these trips, I’m not sure he ever knew how much it shaped me and I’m positive he did it because that’s just who he was.


It was almost a year into my employment with John that my restaurant career started calling me back, while I was working for John my parents and my siblings scheduled a trip to Europe, they were to be gone 6 weeks and didn’t want to close their restaurant altogether. My Dad asked if I would be interested in opening their place just for dinner from 5-10, 6 days a week. I wasn’t sure I even wanted to do this but it was a favor to my family so I agreed, after I cleared it with John of course.


I didn’t know it at the time but that was where Pappagallo’s really started to become an idea for me.

Those 6 weeks were very long construction job from 7-3:30 then cleaned up and opened my parents place by 5. Those days usually ended by midnight after we cleaned up. I was young ambitious and apparently didn’t need much sleep, but I learned that I truly loved the restaurant business and was destined to return to throwing pies and making bread as career.


The day soon came that I would have to tell the man I respected so much that I would be leaving his employment; this was the toughest meeting I ever walked into. Of course John made it really easy, first he explained that work is something I was going to face for the next 40 plus years of my life and that I had better love what I did for work or my life would be miserable.


John explained it this way, “if you don’t love what you do, no amount of money will make you happy, there are many people out there making lots of money at a job they hate and they hate their life because they hate their job” John continued to say that I should do what I love and the financial rewards would come, still kind of waiting for that but I have trust in Johns words so I know I’ll get there 😄


The last thing John said as he accepted that I would be leaving in two weeks was that I was only 3 weeks any from my paid weeks’ vacation and that if I stayed that extra week I could collect that extra pay, I declined, it didn’t seem right to take a week’s pay from a company I was leaving I left my work boots and construction equipment and traded them in for an apron and a dough machine, I went back to work for my parents with the plan that we would open more stores to give each of the siblings their own store.


John and I continued to dive as often as we could and he always continued to have more confidence in me and my abilities than I had in myself, that was the thing, if John asked me to do something, I had so much respect and admiration for him that I became sure that if John trusted me to do it I must be capable of it.


There was a time we had gone to the Florida Keys for Memorial Day weekend. John had towed his 35 foot boat all the way there so we could all have our own ride while in the keys. The entire group had a great weekend and we literally owed it all to John and his willingness to drag that huge boat all the way to the keys (it’s close to a 6 hour drive by car, I think it took him close to 10 towing that boat).


Well Memorial Day Monday comes and it’s time to head back home, we’re packing up the boat and John turns to me ever so casually throws me the keys to his truck that is attached to a 40 foot trailer and tells me to meet him at the boat ramp I was 19 had never towed anything in my life much less this missile launcher sized trailer attached to a full sized Chevy blazer, Not to mention the whole world was trying to head north out of the keys and I needed to head south, it was bumper to bumper traffic and had no idea how to tow this massive trailer. I quickly questioned John’s sanity and the value he had placed on his truck and trailer to give it to a 19 year old kid (incidentally 10 minutes before this I thought I was a grown man).

True to character John said, you can do it, just pull out a little into traffic and they’ll let you turn and besides the bigger the trailer is the easier it is to maneuver, as if everyone knew this fact.

So I set off, wide eyed and white knuckled and headed to the ramp, guess what, I got there without incident, I was soaked in nervous sweat and a few grey hairs emerged but I got there as usual John was right.


I could tell endless stories of my times with John and I treasure all of them, maybe I’ll write some of my favorite stories at a later date.


These are a few of the lessons I still carry 30 plus years later from the man I still respect over all others…


– Pick a career you enjoy you will have to work hard at what you do but if you enjoy your job it won’t seem like hard work at all


– No one has ever worked “for” me at Pappagallo’s Satellite Beach 321-773-7272 we all work together to get the job done


– Everyone deserves respect from the entry level team member to the owner, we all do a job that is necessary and important, the best chef in the world can’t create the best meal if someone doesn’t wash the dishes on which that meal will be served -Personal accomplishments need not be broadcast, it may take a while but you’re work will be noticed and appreciated and when it is noticed it will be recognized as greatness not bragging, I call it “quiet dignity”


-Bring more worth to the job than you take out, this way you will become irreplaceable -Never get so important that you can’t do any job involved in your business


During my time at John’s construction company we seldom worked Saturdays but on this rare occasion there was supposed to be a small crew on the job spreading base rock for a job we were doing, I was feeling pretty lousy but I had gone to the site to make sure the guys had showed up, upon returning home I crawled into bed and waited to die from whatever flu bug had bitten me, I heard the phone ring and it was obviously John because I heard my wife say, ”no he’s in bed he’s sick as hell” I got up to see what was going on. I was told that for whatever reason half the crew hadn’t come back from lunch and John was out there “spreading rock” and was looking for any help that would answer the phone, he insisted that I stay home if I was sick. As you can guess I didn’t, I pulled myself together and drove to the site to spread rock with my boss. When I arrived I saw the president of our company with a shovel in hand, truly the definition of manual labor, spreading rock, I asked what he was doing, he replied like a little boy smiling from ear to ear and answered, I get to play in the dirt today, it was the most fun I had while working with John.


What did I learn? Like he said never be too big to do the smallest job in your business, whether it’s spreading rock or washing dishes always be willing to get the job done.

By the way as a result of not resting I ended up with bronchial pneumonia and had to stay home several days to recoup, the doctor had told me that, before I went back to work that day.

I was told if I didn’t rest I’d end up in the hospital, John never asked me to come in he wouldn’t have allowed it if I asked him, if he needed me, so I didn’t ask.


Lesson is: Do what needs to be done when it needs to be done don’t wait to be told.

I really didn’t intend this blog to turn into the story of John and this is but a small piece of what I learned from him as a boss and a man but we lost John to cancer recently, and his lessons and the times we spent together are really on my mind.


I will miss John deeply but I will never forget what I learned from him and the respect he showed me as a young man.


Some of my fondest memories start the same way,” me and John were diving and…..”


Thanks for the memories my friend!