Lifelong Chelsea resident Mario Zullo (right) greets his friend, world heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano, at a Boston restaurant.
Family and friends are remembering Mario Zullo, a member of one of Chelsea’s most prominent families, as a respected business owner and a larger-than-life figure for decades who knew people from all walks of life and every corner of Chelsea.
Mr. Zullo, who had nine brothers and two sisters, died on Sept. 30, 2016 surrounded by his loving family. He was 90 years. He was the son of Christopher and Angelina Zullo.
There was a touch of irony that Mario died on the week the Jewish New Year was being observed. Growing up on Maverick Street in a city with thousands of Jewish residents, Mario had many Jewish friends who shared his love of life, knew his close-knit family well, and enjoyed the sport of boxing as much as he did.
Mario became the Chelsea connection to Rocky Marciano, the Brockton Bomber who became the heavyweight champion of the world and retired with an undefeated record. Mario served as Rocky’s publicist and confidante and the champion’s visits to Chelsea were frequent. It was Mario who brought the then-world champ Marciano to Chelsea for the Columbus Day Parade in which he and the champ occupied a convertible with then-Mayor Andrew P. Quigley.
Former heavyweight champion John Ruiz, the first Latino to win the title, also came to value Mario’s career advice and guidance.
Mario’s personality and street-smart eloquence – sometimes using Yiddish expressions – were infectious. His cleaning store, Park Cleaners, was a place to receive not only great service from Mario and his beloved wife, Elena, but to receive advice and discuss the issues of the day.
Daughter Judi Festa and her husband, William “Chuck,” and daughter Diane Zullo are proud members of the family living in Peabody. Mario’s sister, Barbara Libby, a well-known volunteer at the Chelsea Senior Center, is the lone surviving sibling.
Mario’s nieces and nephews, Angela Zullo, Michael Zullo, Richard Zullo, and twins Paul Zullo and Lisa Zullo, the children of former amateur boxing champion Michael “Mickey” Zullo and Jeanette (Fantasia) Zullo, were among the local carriers of the family’s charm, charisma, and mystique. The Zullos were generous, personable, and kind, and like their uncle and parents, the Zullo children’s warmth was genuine and welcoming to people in all communities.
Mr. Zullo had three grandchildren, Alana Rikeman, Giana Festa, and Joseph Breda.
He attended Chelsea High School and entered the U.S. Navy. He started a dry cleaning business handling the needs of the nearby Chelsea Naval Yard. He was in the dry cleaning business for decades, opening his first store in Chelsea. His store was at the corner of Park Street and Everett Avenue, just a few doors down from Kirshon Paint.
The love of his life was Elena (Cianfrocca) Zullo, who died in 2014.
“It was love at first sight,” said Judi. “They had their wedding reception at Revere City Hall. They were always together.”
Mario struck up a friendship with Rocky Marciano, who knocked out 90 percent of his opponents and held the championship from 1952 to 1956. A world-renowned figure, Rocky chose to spend a lot of his time away from the ring with Mario, whom he trusted and considered a real friend.
“Mario went to every one of his fights,” said Judi. “Rocky would train at Grossinger’s in New York and he wanted Mario to be around him.”
Part of the strong connection with Rocky was attributed to Mario’s comfortableness with people of all backgrounds.
“Mario was comfortable with people no matter what their status or caliber was,” said Judi. “When he met somebody, they wanted to be around him. The Jewish people loved him. They invited him to the synagogue and to celebrate the holidays.”
One time on a family trip to Las Vegas, Mario took a seat next to two multi-millionaires – one a businessman and the other a movie producer.
“By the time the show started, Mario had them eating out of his hand,” said his daughter. “I cannot even tell you how people just gravitated to him.”
Judi said she and her sister inherited their father’s outgoing personality and ability to connect with people. Mario was the center of attention at family gatherings, she related.
Judi said Park Cleaners became Mario’s platform, working alongside his beloved wife.
“He solved everyone’s problems at the store,” said Judi. “He made friends with everybody and knew how to make people feel important. John Ruiz became one of his buddies. Whenever you went in to the store, Mario and his wife were together. They were great dancers, too.”
Mario loved Chelsea with all his heart. “He and Andrew Quigley had a great relationship. They were very close,” said Judi. “There was a great photo in the Chelsea Record of Mario, Andrew, and Rocky riding down Broadway in a controvertible during the Columbus Day Parade.”
Mario was healthy through his later years but following a bout with pneumonia, he became a resident of a nursing home in Peabody.
“Mario’s care at the nursing home was awesome,” said Judi. “He was like the mayor of the nursing home. He would go around meeting people. I used to bring him cookies and my sister would bring him things.
“The other residents would tell me, ‘we love your father, he always has those cookies.”
From his early days on Maverick Street to the final days of a wonderful life, Mario was always giving to others and making people feel good about themselves.
That’s the Mario Zullo that Chelsea will never forget.
The end of an era was marked by many long-time Chelsea residents this week with the passing of Mario Zullo, the last surviving brother of the 10 boys and two girls of the fabled Zullo family.
Mario operated Mario’s Cleaners for many years in Park Square, across from Riley’s Roast Beef and the former Pallin Chevrolet building (which now houses ROCA).
Mario grew up in Chelsea during the 1930s and 1940s, and was known by all as a personable and great friend to countless members of our community.
Mario became a trusted confidante of former world heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano of Brockton. Rocky often visited Chelsea as Mario’s guest and appeared in an epic, open-air parade along Broadway with then-Mayor Andrew P. Quigley.
Everyone, it seemed, knew Mario and enjoyed talking sports, politics, and the issues of the day with him.
We will miss Mario Zullo and his many contributions to our city and its people. We know we speak for our fellow residents in offering our condolences to his daughters Judi and Diane, sister Barbara, the last surviving sibling of the Zullo clan, and the large, extended Zullo family.
Inventor Mike Roylos attaches one of the Butt-lers to a pole in the Square.
Over the years, there’s been a shortage of just about everything in Bellingham Square, but there has never been a shortage of cigarette butts lining the brick pathways in and around City Hall.
Now, as one of the first orders of business in the re-shaping of the downtown business district, the City, The Neighborhood Developers (TND) and the Community Enhancement Team (CET) have banded together to purchase five Sidewalk Butt-lers to provide a receptacle for used cigarette butts and a way to recycle those butts into something useful.
In a gathering at the tip of the Square on Tuesday morning, the new Butt-lers were installed by their inventor, Mike Roylos, as many members of the various groups looked on.
“This is part of our efforts to improve the Square and Broadway,” said City Manager Tom Ambrosino. “Our efforts involve things we want to do in the long-term and some things we can do right now. This is something we can do immediately. Many people will see this and see we are trying to do something here. We hope the people who frequent this Square will use them. This is step one in a long-term effort to improve the Square.”
As members of the CET like Mike Sandoval clipped around the little Square picking up cigarette butts and depositing them in their new home, TND’s Sharon Fosbury explained that the program will take things a step further by recycling all of the butts and creating no new trash.
“This is an extremely good option because it’s getting the butts off the sidewalk and taking the next step by recycling them,” she said. “It’s one thing to collect butts and throwing them away, but this is generating no new trash. It’s all being recycled.”
The cigarette butts are to be collected by the Department of Public Works and then stored at the City Yard. Once there are enough, the CET volunteers will ship the butts to a company called TerraCycle. The company separates the cigarette butts into several parts. On the whole, a cigarette butt is not recyclable. However, once the filter is removed, it is made out of plastic and can be melted down and recycled. The excess leftover tobacco is used for compost. Any remaining paper is also recycled. Over the long run, any money generated from selling the recycled materials is used for grant opportunities for community organizations around the country.
“It only costs us man hours and we’re volunteers,” said Fosbury.
Roylos invented the Sidewalk Butt-ler when he got tired of seeing and picking up cigarette butts outside his Maine restaurant every day. To solve the problem, he invented the little tubes that are locked at the bottom and instituted the recycling initiative as part of the plan too.
He told City officials that he believes it will make a difference, but it could take time.
The pilot program includes Butt-lers in front of Dr. Dental on Washington Avenue, in front of Bunker Hill Community College, at the Gazebo, in front of City Hall and at the Bellingham Square location.
The goal is to expand the program even further if the program finds enough success.
The Chelsea Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) met on Tuesday night, Aug. 9, for a full slate of proposals.
First and foremost, Chelsea developers Gerry Sneirson was approved to build a mixed-use project at the old Centro Latino headquarters – a key corner property in the Broadway business district.
The plan calls for one commercial unit in the basement and two on the first floor.
The first floor would also house parking for nine vehicles.
The second and third floors would have eight units each, for a total of 16 units.
The project would include building an addition to the rear of the building over the top of the existing parking lot.
In another matter, Steven McDonough was given a Special Permit to establish a small personal training gym at 311 Eastern Ave. He did not meet requirements for off-street parking.
Other matters reviewed were:
18 Parker St., Elba Rojas was approved for special permit and variances to convert a one family into a two-family home. It did to meeting minimum lot size and didn’t have required parking.
54 Palmer St., Raymond Lewis got a special permit to construct a driveway.
337 Third St., Third Street Realty Corp. was approved for a variance for dividing the lot and establishing two primary uses on a single lot and the company got a special permit for off-street parking requirements.
68 Pearl St., Sotiris Sotiropoulos received a special permit to covert a one family to a two-family.
214 Arlington St., Erik Rueda was given a special permit to change the use of storage space on his second floor to the use of a business office.
178 Chestnut St., Acquisitions Division LLC was continued for a special permit for a parking lot that does not meet minimum requirements.
37-39 Blossom St., Ana Melecio was continued for a special permit for construction of two carports.
Dwayne Seldon, 51, 28 Spencer Ave., Chelsea, was arrested for possessing Class B drug, resisting arrest, drinking/possessing open alcoholic beverage in public.
Shirma Farmer, 63, 9 Lawrence St., Chelsea, was arrested for disorderly conduct, drinking/possessing open alcoholic beverage in public.
Sherif Seweilam, 29, 435 Dorset St., South Burlington, VT, was arrested on a warrant.
Tuesday, August 2
Raul Figueroa, 30, 14 Marie St., Dorchester, was arrested on warrants.
Natalie Virella, 36, 317 Broadway, Chelsea, was arrested on warrants.
Thursday, August 4
Faisal Yerow, 20, 180 Central Ave., Chelsea, was arrested for breaking and entering nighttime vehicle/boat for felony (5 counts) receiving stolen property over $250, resisting arrest.
Kenneth Powell, 27k, 67 Savanna Ave., East Boston, was arrested for assault to murder, firearm-armed, destruction of property over $250, malicious, discharging/firing firearm/bb or air gun in city, firearm, discharge within 500 ft. of building, firearm, carrying without license, ammunition without FID card, possess, threat to commit crime, witness intimidation.
Sunday, August 7
Laura Delmedico, 34, 26 Tufts St., Boston, was arrested on a warrant.
Mimi Rancatore, a co-owner of the world-renowned Toscanini’s in Cambridge, has created a working life around ice cream since coming to Boston in the 1970s. Since 2001, she has called Chelsea home and said she loves working in Cambridge and coming home to Beacon Street.
Chelsea’s Mimi Rancatore has constructed a life around an ice cream cone, and to date, it’s been topped with sprinkles.
Rancatore has lived in Chelsea since 2001, but during working hours she spends her days in Cambridge at the world-renowned Toscanini’s Ice Cream and Coffee in Central Square – a business she has co-owned with her brother for more than a decade.
Toscanini’s has been around since 1982, when Rancatore’s brother, Gus, started the business after training in ice cream making at Steve’s Ice Cream in Davis Square. Rancatore, who also worked at Steve’s and learned a lot about ice cream, worked in fine dining at many notable restaurants until joining her brother a little over 10 years ago.
“I love my job and I love Chelsea,” said Rancatore this week at her shop in Central Square. “I love wearing multiple hats in business and I love being in charge. Both Gus and I worked at the old Steve’s Ice Cream in Davis Square in 1975 and 1976. Steve started the parlor ice cream. He invented the mix-ins. We worked there and then we went our separate ways. Gus is the ice cream maker, which he is excellent at, and I do the business end. Don’t get me wrong, I can make ice cream and I can cook, but Gus is really good at it. I was into fine dining for a long time, but got sick of the hours and joined Gus as a co-owner about 11 years ago. The best way to describe Toscanini’s is it’s an adult ice cream store. We have a lot of flavors for children too, but we have some complex ones as well. I love working in an ice cream store because it’s happy food. Everyone is happy here.”
Rancatore was born in the New York City/New Jersey area, but she and her five siblings spent their high school years in St. Louis. Her brother Gus had already left St. Louis and settled in Boston when Rancatore graduated high school. She said she couldn’t bear to go to college and knew the academic world wasn’t for her. Gus said he could get her a job at Steve’s Ice Cream, so at the age of 19, Rancatore left St. Louis for an ice cream job, and she continues that tradition to this day – though she and her brother have pretty much climbed to the top of the East Coast Ice Cream world.
Toscanini’s has a truly incredible following, with several Best of Boston awards and numerous Top 10 lists – with the New York Times once calling it the best ice cream on the planet.
The most popular flavor in the store is the B3, a concoction of brown sugar, brownies, browned butter and burnt caramel.
“The most popular flavor is B3 and has been for awhile,” she said. “Right now, our chocolate is outselling vanilla. It didn’t used to be that way, but now the two have reversed in popularity. My personal favorite is malted vanilla, but we are doing some very exciting things with our new soft serve offerings, including a twist of chocolate rum banana with malted vanilla.”
Rancatore lives on Beacon Street in Chelsea and has been around long enough to see her condo go from very desirable to very undesirable and the, back to desirable. She serves on the Chelsea Cultural Council and is a big supporter of the Apollinaire Theatre and the Chelsea Girl Scouts.
She said she often thinks about the future of Broadway Chelsea and compares it to the successful climb of Central Square lately. One thing she said is there needs to be more restaurants, simple restaurants, on the stretch.
“There needs to be a go-to restaurant, something like Newbridge in Prattville,” she said. “When I imagine Broadway, that’s what I think.”
Rancatore said business is good and she relishes being able to spend her days in Cambridge and her private time in Chelsea.
“We’ve been very lucky and we’re doing very well with the business,” she said. “I love being able to work in Cambridge and go home to where I live in Chelsea. I really appreciate Chelsea and how in Chelsea the city councillors will go to all the events. You don’t get that in Cambridge so much. I think that’s great. There is a real community feel to the city.”
The City Council has assembled a committee of three members to begin the annual evaluation process for City Manager Tom Ambrosino after the passage of his one-year anniversary on July 20.
As part of the City Charter, the Council must evaluate the Manager annually on a set of criteria defined by the committee.
This time around, Councillor Leo Robinson will chair the Committee and he will be joined by Councillors Matt Frank and Roy Avellaneda. Council President Dan Cortell appointed the members.
A meeting of the sub-committee hasn’t been scheduled yet, but will be once the Council reconvenes from the summer.
This week, in preparation, Ambrosino released his one-year self-evaluation of his work based on Economic Development; support for Chelsea Public Schools and Youth Initiatives; and Neighborhood and Quality of Life Issues.
For Economic Development, he pointed to the opening of Phase II of One North, just opened at the end of July; and the impending completion of the FBI building this summer. For hotels, the Hilton Homewood Suites and Events Center is fully into construction and will be completed in winter. He indicated two projects would break ground in the current budget year, including the Broadway Hotel near the Revere Line and the Fairfield Residential Project at the old Chelsea Clock.
The biggest piece of Economic Development, however, are tracts in the Downtown Business District and along the Chelsea Creek waterfront. Both are in the formative stages, but Ambrosino said there is major groundwork that has been completed on both.
He also indicated that the developers of the Forbes site in Mill Hill are interested in coming back to the City with a much smaller, but still major, redevelopment.
Ambrosino also highlighted investment in the Chelsea Public Schools, noting that the Council approved his recommendation to reverse a net school spending deficit and make a significant investment in the schools. The expansion in funding has allowed the Citizens School program in the middle schools to reach more kids, and to bring on an after-school and summer program provider in For Kids Only. He also highlighted the Clark Avenue School building project that is well underway and that he is closely shepherding, having overseen numerous school building projects while mayor of Revere.
The City Manager also stressed in his review that he has targeted funding youth programs, including doubling the summer jobs money available for youth, creating a Youth Navigator position, and establishing a new Recreation and Cultural Affairs Division of City government.
His greatest asset, though, has been investing in neighborhoods.
He listed the investments in the Downtown Corridor, as well as the quick successes of the Navigator and services on demand programs for those who congregation in Bellingham Square. Additionally, he highlighted park investments and streamlining services at City Hall.
“The paramount task of any municipal government is to improve the life of its residents,” he wrote. “During this past year, through collaboration and good decision-making, we have advanced this goal. I look forward to another productive year ahead.”