Lawrence “Larry” Bongiovanni, the founder and patriarch of metro Detroit Italian dining chain Salvatore Scallopini, died Sunday, May 5, at age 82. A businessman and longtime restaurateur, Bongiovanni’s career spanned 57 years.
“He believed in providing great guest experiences above all else,” the Bongiovanni family writes in a statement. “[He was] always seeking the next location or opportunity, no matter where it may be.”
Born on September 21, 1936, Bongiovanni served in the U.S. Army from 1954 to 1956 and upon returning home entered the restaurant industry as a cook at J.L. Hudson’s. He eventually took a second position as chef at the General Motors Tech Center in Warren where he learned the skills necessary to become a restaurant owner. Bongiovanni’s first business acquisition was the Nugget, a 24-hour diner in Livonia. He went on to own many other restaurants in the region including Squires Table in Walled Lake, Larry’s Saloon in Warren, Mr. Flood’s Party in Ann Arbor and Detroit, Trattoria Bongiovanni in Ann Arbor, and Luxe Bar & Grill in Birmingham and Grosse Pointe.
Perhaps his most important contribution to the local restaurant industry was Italian restaurant chain Salvatore Scallopini. Bongiovanni founded the original restaurant in 1982 in Madison Heights and went on to open many more locations throughout metro Detroit and a location in Indianapolis. The restaurants served traditional American Italian fare and became mainstays in the communities where they opened. Bongiovanni also instilled a love for the hospitality business in his children, who have since gone on to open many other restaurants in the region including O.W.L. and Market North End.
Bongiovanni was dedicated to the restaurant business. This winter when the Birmingham location of Salvatore Scallopini received an update, Bongiovanni was there to oversee the transformation. “Into his 80s Larry was up to date on the entire metro Detroit restaurant scene and was visiting new places and still thinking and working on new restaurant ideas,” his family writes.
Bongiovanni is survived by his wife of 57 years, Eunice, as well as his three children, Joseph, Kara, and Lawrence. Visitation will be hosted from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday, May 12 at Wujek-Calcaterra & Sons, Inc. in Sterling Heights. A funeral will be held at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, May 13 at St. Lawrence Catholic Church in Utica.
• Larry Bongiovanni Obituary [Wujek-Calcaterra & Sons]