Maria Roccadella (Palumbo) Roberto, the matriarch of the Roberto family and the glue that held the Spinelli’s enterprise together for over 30 years, has died.
Mrs. Roberto died peacefully with her loving family by her bedside on Tuesday, December 8.
Mrs. Roberto immigrated from Groppo, Italy when she was 25 years old and settled on Harve Street. The family later moved to Bennington Street where she raised her daughter, Rita and two sons Louie and Anthony and remained on the street for the next 45 years.
Mrs. Roberto helped support her family by working in the clothing business with Piccarello Manufacturing. However, cooking was always in her blood and later went to work for over 21 years at the Don Orione Nursing Home in East Boston in their kitchen preparing meals for the residents.
When her three children decided to take over the famed Spinelli’s Pasta Shop in Day Square over from Danny Spinelli over 30 years ago, Mrs. Roberto was very supportive and would become a regular fixture at the business as it rapidly expanded from mainly a distribution pasta shop to more of a retail and catering operation.
“She would work all day at the Don Orione cooking and then come into Spinelli’s, put on her apron and begin cooking here,” said her son, Anthony. “She was always cooking when we were growing up and although she did not have a high school education she had street smarts and taught us how to treat customers with kindness and respect and to always use the best, freshest ingredients because that’s all she would use at home.”
Her work ethic also rubbed off on her three children that ran Spinelli’s. It was one thing to be the boss and run a business from a back office but Mrs. Roberto led by example. With her in the kitchen, the employees working hard, Anthony, Rita and Louie would also be down in the trenches cooking, working the front counter, setting up functions and working side by side with employees.
In fact, after long days of work and with Anthony, Rita and Louie still at Spinelli’s getting ready for the next day, employees were all too happy to drive Mrs. Roberto home–knowing they would most be invited into her home for a delicious meal.
“The employees were like her extended family and she was like a second mother to many of them,” said Anthony. “Even if you said you were not hungry she’d persist until you were at the table eating. Our father passed away three years after we took over Spinelli’s so she always loved company and to her life wasn’t about money or success it was about companionship and family.”