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Family Traditions: from Sicily to Siesta Key

“Bringing my family’s traditions to yours.” – Siesta Key businessman Maurice Dentici says his motto may sound cheesy, but it is absolutely true. His roots trace back to Bagheria, a small town in Sicily, then New Jersey and Sarasota. He was born into the restaurant industry. The entrepreneur has his hand in at least a dozen businesses, including Spearfish Grille, located at Siesta Key Marina (1265 Old Stickney Point Rd). Maurice and his brothers take pride in the New Jersey-style pizza and authentic Southern Italian food they serve at Rico’s Pizzeria & Pasta House in Sarasota, St. Armand’s Circle, and Lakewood Ranch/Bradenton. Dentici is a self-described spontaneous, family loving workaholic. “I love to work. My passion is my family, and my work.” He adds the hardest part of his job is finding people as passionate about work as he feels.

I asked Maurice why he’s spent his entire adult life building businesses here. “I love Sarasota. I have traveled all over and have vacationed in many, many places. I just LOVE Sarasota” he says with an element of excitement in his voice. “I think I love it because of the cleanliness, the atmosphere, the people. It’s just the people here are kinder, nicer.” Perhaps that’s why his parents moved here and opened The Bagel Inn on Bay Road in 1989. The same business, same building Maurice later helped transition into a different type of restaurant for local bread lovers- Rico’s. “I was a young college kid, I didn’t want to have to wake up at 3am to go to work, so when my father gave me the opportunity to take the Bagel Inn business over, I decided to do pizza.” In case you’re wondering, Rico is one of his brothers’ name. The family owned, and operated establishments followed the Father and Son business model, giving each location the Dentici name in birth order.

The restaurateur’s family moved back and forth between Sicily and New Jersey before landing in Sarasota when he was 13 years old. He graduated from Sarasota High School, where he fell in love and earned a degree in finance, with plans to start his career in New York City. “Then nine-eleven happened. At the same time my parents sold the Bagel Inn, but the sale fell through. I guess it was fate, just destiny.” Maurice says the Denticis have been serving their family traditions from the same building on Bay Road for 30 years.

This big personality speaks quietly when I ask about his success. “I don’t like the attention being on me, ya know.” Maurice credits much of his success to his high school sweetheart and wife, Tammy, who is with him on every business venture. When I ask how he manages to balance work and life he reiterates his love to vacation. “Me and my family love to go places. My favorite place is Sicily (where his parents reside part-time), but I will tell you my wife’s favorite spot to go is anywhere she’s with her boys. Maurice and Tammy have two sons, Sebastian (18) and Reece (14). I ask if his children plan to carry on the Father and Son business. “I don’t know, we will see. I sure hope they do.”

Next time you’re in the mood for some fantastic family cooking, try the white pizza and wings at Rico’s and Maurice recommends ordering the sushi nachos and grouper sandwich from Spearfish Grille. You can check the menus out online www.ricospizzapie.com and www.spearfishgrille.com or you could get your food to go and enjoy it alongside a sunset dolphin cruise with Fun Boat Tours (also one of Maurice’s business ventures) located next to Spearfish Grille. You can call 941-400-2763 or book online www.FunBoatTours.com.