Popular Marco restaurateur Tony Rainone dies at 54

A solitary wreath outside the Crazy Flamingo restaurant at the Town Center signifies the loss of its founder/owner Tony Rainone who died Sept. 18.

Photo by QUENTIN ROUX, Staff // Buy this photo

A solitary wreath outside the Crazy Flamingo restaurant at the Town Center signifies the loss of its founder/owner Tony Rainone who died Sept. 18.

A solitary wreath outside the Crazy Flamingo restaurant at the Town Center signifies the loss of its founder/owner Tony Rainone who died Sept. 18.

Photo by QUENTIN ROUX, Staff // Buy this photo

A solitary wreath outside the Crazy Flamingo restaurant at the Town Center signifies the loss of its founder/owner Tony Rainone who died Sept. 18.

Tony Rainone of Nacho Mama’s was excited about hosting the 'So You Think You Can Sing' event to help Dancing With The Starz participant Howard Jordan.

Photo by QUENTIN ROUX, Eagle staff // Buy this photo

Tony Rainone of Nacho Mama’s was excited about hosting the "So You Think You Can Sing" event to help Dancing With The Starz participant Howard Jordan.

Crazy Flamingo

1035 N. Collier Blvd. #313, Marco

— 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.

© 2008 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 9

cowo26 writes:

The Island has lost a giant of a man. I imagine right now he's planning a cookout for charity in heaven.

marcoislandres writes:

That was on NaplesNews.com

RobertGarraty writes:

God Bless you Tony. The Island won't be the same without you.

hourigan82247 writes:

A big man with an even bigger heart. God bless you my friend. Now you will touch the face of God...and live forever!

suellengage writes:

so u took off 4 heaven did ya tony. well u truly deserve the rest and relaxation. i hope your heaven is perfect. u worked so very hard and were so good 2 many people but now its time 2 kick back chill and watch the rest of us try relentlessly 2 get things half as right as u did. i will miss u, save me a spot up there because i look forward 2 c ing u again in heaven 1 day!!!...S

bomall writes:

God Bless you Tony, the Island has lost a great and caring man. You are in a wonderful place now.

samkev writes:

Liberty Hall Inns staff and its guests will miss you this Thanksgiving ,but we will never forget you brother .Lover Ya

playballonK writes:

A great loss for a very giving man, Marco has lost one of its best.

floridagirl4ever writes:

I've known Tony for 28 years. I grew up knowing him in Key Largo. He was very good friends with my parents and this world will NEVER be the same without him.

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