A la Carte: Family affair

The Castellano family works together at the Capri Fish House

Capri Fish House

203 Capri Boulevard, Naples, FL

The “Like mother like daughter” cliché can turn into a barbed hook to hang a story on when there’s no bait to feed a writer’s line of reasoning.

However, to get a line on Capri Fish House Restaurant on the Bay co-owner Theresa Castellano, it only took a quick look at daughter Annie’s recent accomplishment (successfully competing for a spot in the American Gladiator TV show last summer) to see that the words “survivor” and “go-getter” apply equally to both.

To stretch the line further, after Annie passed the interview and physical ability test she had to create a brief video about herself and her family for American Gladiator focusing on significant life experiences. Annie chose to explain how the family moved to Marco from Massachusetts and purchased the Capri Fish House in June 2004, only to see it trashed by Hurricane Wilma in October 2005 and re-open after extensive repairs in June 2006. In the video Annie also related that a month later she found out her mother was diagnosed with cancer and after having surgery and chemotherapy is a survivor. It’s no coincidence that, Annie’s emphasis on family ties is also the thread that runs through and defines Theresa Castellano.

“One of the good things about moving down here and buying the restaurant,” Theresa explained, “Up north we ran a convenience store and were always there from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. We never had time to spend with our kids. When we got here we were able to spend a lot of time with them until they went to college, but both girls came to work in the restaurant, and they return during break and holiday, and Michael junior still comes and helps out after classes at St. John Neumann High School in Naples. We’re a family affair; Annie recently came to visit and helped wait on tables during winter break from Columbia College.

“During one of the bad storms last summer, I took advantage of being closed. We had the whole family here and we did most of my spring cleaning, including the tables and chairs from the chickee that were stored in the dining room. I’m a survivor. The only reason why we’re here — we work together, we’re a good team.” Theresa stated, giving her husband Michael Castellano credit for being the perfect host with a personality that brings people back to the restaurant. “I never cooked before. I used to work in the New York office of a Canadian insurance company that had office in Toronto. I met Michael when I was on vacation and staying in Pompano Beach with friends.”

Michael Castellano, who happened to be within earshot, explained.

“Fort Lauderdale was a party town when I was a kid, well 25, compared to now. Josesphine’s was a popular hangout, a hot spot. I asked her to dance and she said no. I grabbed her hand and said I don’t take no for an answer. So she had to dance and it’s been bliss ever since.”

Now, Theresa interrupted.

“You know why I said no? I was a classy woman from New York. He was wearing striped pants. He looked like a geek wearing those striped pants!

Theresa related that the couple was always in the food business. Before and after they married, Michael operated Uncle Mickey’s Pizza and Subs, a convenience/deli store, for over 20 years in Wilmington Heights just north of Boston. Theresa kept working in the insurance office for three months after the couple got engaged, then after they got married Nov. 29, 1986, Theresa quit her job after 10½ years.

“I left my family in Brooklyn and moved to Massachusetts. That’s when I started working with my husband and began a new career.” Theresa added.

“One of my last ventures in the food business was a catering business called Gloria’s. I had to keep the name because it used to be a chain. I’d go in my basement in Uncle Mickey’s deli at night to cook the food for my catering business. Here (Capri Fish House) I thought, no cooking will be a breeze, but looking back it probably was easier to get up in the middle of the night to do my catering.

“When we bought the restaurant I thought I’d be the hostess standing at the door greeting customers. Well, that part is true, but the picture doesn’t include me with broom in hand sweeping out the entrance, and keeping up with the restrooms’ wet floors and sweeping out more sand that people drag in because we have my brother Tom’s kayak rental and saltwater sports business on the beach next to the chickee bar. It’s go, go, go. We’re open seven days from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.!

“We were married 18 years and decided we needed a change. Before we moved to Marco we used to come here on vacation. I found the restaurant and house on the internet and I moved to nail it. We picked everything out and did it all in one day and signed the papers on June 2, 2004! They (the children) thought it would be fun, but then no friends and a new school. If I had to do it again — I don’t know,” Theresa said, gazing around the dining room. “I’m a go-getter, and this (Capri Fish House) is constant babysitting, but also like raising children. This is my baby and it’s still fun to be here, we know what we do and we hope we do it well.”

“She’s a wonderful girl, my wife. Everyone gets lucky sometimes. She actually does the work,” Michael declared, “I’m the front guy. I smile and shake a lot of hands. I’m like an entertainment director — I make sure people have a good time!”

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