Anthony LaRocco, a former Hilton Head Island restaurateur who went on to open several successful restaurants in Georgia and Florida, has died.
LaRocco, 59, died Sept. 20 surrounded by family and friends, according to a statement issued by family members on Saturday.
"He was a man who loved life," LaRocco's sister, Barbara LaRocco, said by phone Saturday night. "He loved life and he loved food."
LaRocco opened and ran both Antonio’s, his first restaurant on Hilton Head, and Little Anthony's pizzeria and deli in the late '80s and early '90s, she said.
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Antonio's was later bought by the Lowery Group, said a manager with CQ’s Restaurant, which is part of the Lowery Group.
Born in the Bronx borough of New York City, LaRocco attended Kennedy Catholic High School and went on to graduate from the University of South Florida.
LaRocco is credited with bringing the family-style dining concept to Atlanta in 1995 with the opening of Fratelli di Napoli. The restaurant garnered numerous “best of” awards and accolades. He later opened Vita, in Buckhead, Ga., and LaRocco’s in Destin, Fla. In addition, LaRocco developed a reservation software platform for the industry.
Shortly after LaRocco was diagnosed with leukemia in 2006, he received a stem cell transplant and continued to fight the disease for nine more years, considered by his doctors to be a miracle, Barbara LaRocco said.
"He fought for every one of those nine years to be with his family and friends," she said. He is survived by his wife, Suzy LaRocco, daughters Alex and Sofia LaRocco and son TJ LaRocco. Memorial services are planned in Atlanta and New York in October.
Contributions may be made at www.gofundme.com/jp2ww4h4.