Anthony Pasquale D'Eugenio, 65, Westminster deli owner, musician

March 19, 2004|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Anthony Pasquale "Tony" D'Eugenio, a musician and former deli owner whose booming laugh and Italian cold-cut hoagies were a fixture in downtown Westminster, died Wednesday at Sinai Hospital after complications from heart-valve surgery. He was 65 and lived in Westminster.

In addition to running the Giulianova Groceria at 11 E. Main St., which he sold last year, Mr. D'Eugenio had been a working musician since childhood. He specialized in slide trombone but was able to play almost anything, except piano and drums, said his wife of 26 years, the former Marilyn Kay Jordan. His favorite music was jazz, but he played all types.

His last gig with his band, The Gigolos, was in Ocean City on Valentine's Day, just days before his scheduled surgery, she said. He also played in the Mudcutters, a Dixieland band.

In a 1997 interview, Mr. D'Eugenio told The Sun he began playing at age 8 and professionally at 13, working at nightclubs while he was a student at Patterson Park High School, where he was student director of the band. He had worked as music director for a World Wresting Federation cable wrestling show - Hulk Hogan played bass - and played in a Dixieland band at President Bill Clinton's 1992 inauguration. He also performed at the inaugurations of Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.

The walls at the deli included photographs of him performing at numerous events, along with celebrities such as Luciano Pavarotti, Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack in Las Vegas, and a signed photograph from actor Tim Allen, who visited while filming the movie For Richer or Poorer in Carroll County in 1997.

The deli was renamed the Tulip Basket for that movie, and Mr. D'Eugenio kept the sign as a memento. It brought a lot of silly jokes, he said at the time, "and a lot of business" when the movie crews discovered his meatball subs.

Born in Baltimore, Mr. D'Eugenio grew up in Highlandtown and graduated from Patterson Park High School, then won a scholarship to the Peabody Institute to play trumpet. He married after two years of study and went to work to support a family. That marriage ended in divorce. He also had served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves.

Mr. D'Eugenio switched to trombone and conga drums when he began playing for money, Mrs. D'Eugenio said,

In April 1977, the couple married and moved "out in the boondocks " of Carroll County, and later to Parrs Ridge in Westminster, she said, because "we would always take a ride on Sundays, and somehow we always wound up in Westminster."

Mr. D'Eugenio worked as a salesman for a liquor company, then for a food broker into his 50s, she said, before leaving that job and going to work full time at the deli, which they opened in May 1986.

Giulianova took its name from Mr. D'Eugenio's late father's hometown in Italy, said William Schroeder, 47, a friend of 21 years who bought the business in July. Mr. Schroeder, an amateur musician, was executive chef at Martin's West when "Tony would come in with all the bands."

"He wanted to sell the place to somebody that was going to keep the place the same," Mr. Schroeder said. Mr. D'Eugenio continued to visit several times a week "just to check up and make sure I was doing things the way he did them."

At the deli's storefront yesterday, a half-dozen flower arrangements were placed on the steps and Mr. Schroeder had draped black bunting over the doorway.

"I was there. I cried," Mrs. D'Eugenio said of the tribute.

It was her idea to open an Italian deli, she said, after a bad experience trying to buy Italian meats for a spread for her in-laws. Mr. D'Eugenio was still working as a food salesman and playing music through the old Morgan Baer agency, she said.

Her husband wasn't too crazy about opening a deli at first, she recalled. "He fought me tooth and nail [but] when we opened it up, you would have thought it was all his idea," she said.

The business was named LaStrada when it opened in 1986, two doors down East Main Street, she said. They moved into the Winchester Exchange in 1990 and sold the business in 1992 - to retire - but took it back in 1994 and renamed it Giulianova.

This week the telephone at the deli rang steadily as news spread that Mr. D'Eugenio was critically ill, Mr. Schroeder said. "People were asking for news about Mr. Tony," he said.

Walter Simpson, who has been delivering for Utz Quality Foods in Westminster for about 11 years, described Mr. D'Eugenio as " jovial, kind-hearted - just a very down-to-earth guy."

"There were a lot of things he liked to talk about," Mr. Simpson said. "I don't know whether he was, but he seemed like a world traveler. You just don't find many people that can talk about that many things these days. He was one of a kind."

Others agreed.

Phil Straw, a friend and staff member in the Westminster office of Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, said, "Tony, like taxi drivers and barbers, probably was the most accurate indicator of public opinion on issues important to all of us. ... He oftentimes reminded me of an Italian Will Rogers."

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