The Coastal Star

Coastal Star: Oceanfront business owner has straightforward way: Be the best

Fran Marincola, owner of Caffé Luna Rosa in Delray Beach,
has donated his baseball photographs to the Delray Beach
Public Library. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

 

By Ron Hayes

Scan the walls of Caffé Luna Rosa, Delray Beach’s longtime oceanfront restaurant, and you’ll find a feast of memorabilia nearly as tasty as the items on the menu.

Here’s Mickey Mantle’s first contract with the New York Yankees, signed in March 1954. He was paid $21,000 that year.

Here’s a Life magazine cover of Mantle from his second year in the majors. Autographed. And another from his last.

And here’s an autographed photo of Frank Sinatra.

“I’ve got a lot of pieces on my wall at home, too,” says Fran Marincola, the owner. “When I die, the Delray Beach library gets ’em.”

Several years ago, he bought two paper bags full of baseball memorabilia from a regular customer named James Murray — baseballs and photographs signed by men every baseball fanatic knows.

Don Larsen, for example. The library now owns a signed, black-and-white photo of Larsen taken on Oct. 8, 1956, the day he pitched the first perfect game in a World Series.

Recently, Marincola donated most of his collection to the library, for other baseball fans to enjoy.

“If you grew up in the East Coast in the 1940s and ’50s, as I did, you have vivid memories of watching these legends play,” he says 

Marincola was born in Upper Darby, Pa., 73 years ago, graduated from Villanova University with a degree in economics and used his education to open a hot dog stand on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights, N.J.

“My mother wanted me to wear a suit,” he says. “I wanted to make money. I figured there’d be money in a boardwalk business.”

The hot dogs led to Philly cheesesteaks on the Long Branch, N.J., boardwalk, a couple of nightclubs, early retirement, a move to Delray Beach in 1980, and then, in 1993, Caffé Luna Rosa.

During those 20 years, he’s served on the city’s Downtown Development Authority and Parking Management Advisory Board.

Now he relaxes, goes on vacation with his girlfriend of 13 years and dotes on his pets — two dogs, a cat and a parrot.

And he dispenses opinions with the kind of in-your-face self-assurance that genteel Southerners find off-putting, until they realize this is how people from New York and New Jersey show friendship.

The best commercial hot dog to buy?

“Schickhaus,” Marincola said. “Absolute best. And Sabrett’s is second.”

The Academy Awards?

“I’ll tell you. Best Actor is gonna be Daniel Day-Lewis. But Bradley Cooper deserves it.”

Sally Field? 

“Not a chance.”

Politics?

“I was a Republican all my life, but that Iraq war got under my skin. To go into another country without being attacked is just wrong.”

And Caffé Luna Rosa?

“I’ve got 50 to 60 employees,” he says, “and my motto is, whatever you’re doing, try to be the best at it and you’ll get fulfillment. Whether you’re tending bar or a bus boy, be the best and you’ll move up.”

A year ago, Marincola gave 50 percent ownership in the restaurant to four longtime employees.

“So now there’s someone here every day from 7 in the morning to 10 at night who owns the place. That’s what you need to run a good restaurant.”                             Ú

Marincola’s donated baseball photographs can be seen at the Delray Beach Public Library, 100 W. Atlantic Ave. The library is open 9 a.m.-8 p.m.  Mon.-Wed.; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Thurs.-Sat.; and 1-5 p.m. Sunday.

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