Gaetano D’Aquino was born in Siracusa, Sicily, an island off southern Italy, in 1940. As World War II engulfed the European continent, Gaetano’s parents, Vito D’Aquino and Vita Di Silvestro felt it best for him to live with his grandparents. It was in his grandparents secluded home in the local hills where the D’Aquino children would be safer. In four years time, their parents would join them. In the years that followed Gaetano’s father would open up a small produce market in the neighborhood, selling fruits, vegetables and other grocery items. It was here where Gaetano got his introduction to business. As he watched his father tirelessly work day in and day out, he learned the value of an honest day’s work.
Gaetano as a teenager working in the stone quarries
When Gaetano reached 18, he moved to Switzerland on the advice of a good friend, who had found work for him there. It was merely an assembly line job but Gaetano was grateful. As time passed and with some perseverance and determination, Gaetano rose up the ranks and by the time he was 25 had reached upper management. It took him five years to achieve this modest level of success and Gaetano felt it was time for a long overdue vacation, in America.
Sylvia and Gaetano on their wedding day.
While visiting friends in Florida, Gaetano met Sylvia Altavilla, the woman that would later become his wife. The year was 1965 and Gaetano had a new wife and now a new home. Gaetano and Sylvia stayed in Florida for about a year and a half which saw the arrival of their first born Patricia. Gaetano found work in the electronics field but felt he was going nowhere and with a new family to support, his future in Florida was not looking bright. After reading about good opportunities in Los Angeles, CA, Gaetano decided to make a solo trip to see if he could establish himself and create a better future for his family.
A long drive across the states found Gaetano in Hollywood, CA in 1967. This was the city he had heard so much about growing up in Sicily, watching his favorite entertainers on the silver-screen in hometown theaters. Unfortunately for Gaetano, this visit brought little happiness since he had no money and no one to confide in. As he roamed the streets in search of work he
Sylvia with Patricia arriving in Los Angeles
came across an Italian restaurant where he could hear the voices of his countrymen. It was Rigo’s Italian restaurant and the owner was responsive to Gaetano’s predicament. He consoled Gaetano and told him about any opportunities he knew of. Gaetano became good friends with the owner and in a short time found work at an electronics store in Pasedena. He saved his earnings and was able to bring his wife and daughter to California some time later. In 1970, the D’Aquinos had the opportunity to take over ownership of a small Italian food market in Hollywood. They worked hard and in a couple of years were able to open another small bakery in Glendale. After three years the D’Aquino family had grown and now included a second daughter, Sonia. They sold the businesses and returned to Italy.
Gaetano was able to make the rounds in Italy, talking to food and wine producers to find out about their industries. He had an idea that maybe he could import these goods into America. The D’Aquinos stayed in Italy for about 4 years and during this time Gaetano researched who the finest producers in Italy were and how to get the best deals from them. In 1977, the D’Aquinos decided to return to California and