Local chef and restaurateur Tomaso Maggiore has died at 73 years old following a two-year battle with brain and lung cancer, according to a statement released Saturday.
Maggiore, who was born and raised in Sicily, Italy, launched more than 50 restaurants in Arizona and California since opening his first restaurant in 1977 with his wife Patricia Maggiore in the Camelback Corridor, Maggiore’s PR agency, The Knight Agency, said in the statement.
The Knight Agency said Maggiore battled glioblastoma brain cancer and small cell lung cancer for a little over two years and received treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
His goal was to bring authentic Italian food to Arizona and was known for his “vibrant personality, sense of humor, selflessness and kind heart,” the statement said. He also launched several restaurants with his son, Joey Maggiore, including Hash Kitchen, The Sicilian Butcher and The Sicilian Baker.
“Tomaso was not only my father, but my idol and his love and passion for the restaurant industry, cooking and Sicily will continue to live on through our restaurants,” said Joey Maggiore, executive chef of The Maggiore Group, in the statement.
The elder Maggiore founded The Maggiore Group and has received numerous awards for his restaurant, including Best Italian Restaurant in the Valley for several decades, the Food Pioneer Award and other top chef accolades, the statement said.
“My father was my hero and inspiration for all I do. My love for food, travel, people and the joy a great meal can bring to your life is derived from the example my father set for me,” said his daughter, Melissa Maggiore Meyer, in the statement.
Mark Tarbell, chef and founder of the Tarbell’s restaurant that sits in the same shopping center as Tomaso’s on Camelback, said Maggiore helped introduce him to the Phoenix fine dining scene when he moved to the area in the 1980s.
“He offered to be of help, of any assistance … and he was that,” Tarbell said. “More than anything, he was just a great source of joy and laughter and great stories.”
Maggiore was a longtime friend, neighbor and fellow restaurateur to Tarbell, who said he admired Maggiore’s authenticity and his ability to be “his best self” and light up a room.
“Great neighborhood institutions, they have that element, they have that energy that just brings laughter and joy and community to everybody, and he did,” Tarbell said. “He was just so welcoming and funny and gregarious … it was really kind of extraordinary.”
Instead of being competitive, Tarbell said they worked well together and became closer friends over time.
Maggiore also has five grandchildren, the statement said.
The Maggiore family asked that any monetary donations be held for The Tomaso Maggiore Culinary Education Scholarship, which will be launched by his family in honor of Maggiore.