Photo by QUENTIN ROUX, Staff // Buy this photo
Photo by QUENTIN ROUX, Eagle staff // Buy this photo
1035 N. Collier Blvd. #313, Marco
MARCO ISLAND — Marco Island has lost a little inspired craziness with the passing of restaurateur Tony Rainone.
No longer will the man with the mile-wide smile be seen tooling around the island in his jaunty pink truck.
Nor will he be on hand for his annual Walk-a-Thon fundraiser and cookout for Tommie Barfield Elementary — something that down the years has seen the addition of hundreds of books to the school’s library.
The owner of the Crazy Flamingo restaurant, Rainone died unexpectedly, but peacefully in bed — with his boots off — on Sept. 18 at his Willow Court home. He was 54 years old.
He’d been a local restaurant icon for the past two decades, but was equally well-known for his tireless Walk-a-Thon efforts.
Rainone was found by his business partner Eric Phillips.
The twosome had joined forces two decades ago, with Phillips first working under Rainone, then managing the Crazy Flamingo, and later taking over another joint venture in the form of Nacho Mama’s restaurant.
“His best characteristic was that he liked to see everyone happy,” Phillips said. “He also found so much joy in cooking ... it made him glow.”
Rainone’s brother Jimmy, in town from Providence, RI., to take care of funeral arrangements, said Tony Rainone was a larger than life character who was strong-willed and opinionated.
“It was his way or the highway,” Jimmy Rainone said affectionately. “He was a free spirit. He couldn’t wait to be old enough to move out of home. He wanted to go travel and see things.”
As it happened, Tony Rainone did just that, testing the restaurateur waters in far-flung places such as Jackson Hole and Las Vegas, later moving to the Keys, to Sanibel Island and eventually Marco Island.
He was married once, said Jimmy Rainone, but his bride didn’t like Florida.
“She wanted to go back up north, he didn’t, so they each went their own ways,” Jimmy Rainone said.
A big man physically for most of his time on Marco, Tony Rainone gave himself what he called a new lease on life about two years ago when he underwent a gastric bypass operation.
He was delighted with the results, losing around 80 pounds in the first year and maintaining a healthy diet combined with regular exercise.
Rose Kriberscheck is a long-time employee at “Crazys” or “The Bird,” as locals affectionately refer to Crazy Flamingo.
“He’s done so much for the island,” Kriberscheck said. “He had such a big heart.”
She said throughout Friday, impromptu wakes had taken place at the restaurant as the news of her boss’s death filtered through.
Jimmy Rainone said there will be a wake at Hodges Josburger Funeral Home between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Wednesday, with a cremation service scheduled for Thursday at 11 a.m. at the San Marco Catholic Church.