Those mourning the tragic loss of Dean LaLima all agree on one thing: Grimaldi's Pizza will never be the same without him.
Mr. LaLima, long time host and manager of the poplar Garden City restaurant, was struck and killed in Williston Park early Sunday in what police are describing as a hit and run.
Mr. LaLima, 41, was found lying in the street at about 4:10 a.m. at the intersection of Syracuse Street and Broad Street in Williston Park after being struck by an unknown vehicle traveling northbound on Broad Street, according to Nassau County police. He was pronounced deceased by a Nassau County Ambulance Advanced Medical Technician at 4:20 a.m.
The tragedy is the second to hit Grimaldi's in less than a year; Grimaldi's owner Russell Ciolli, a best friend of Mr. LaLima's, died suddenly in November 2011. He was 39.
Althea Robinson, executive director of the Garden City Chamber of Commerce, said Dean was heartbroken at Russ’ passing a little less than a year ago. "And while it’s a sad thought, the two buddies are together now," she added.
Michael and Randye Bernot remember Mr. LaLima as a "great guy and a great friend." They posted this on Patch Monday: "We met at an establishment that he used to waiter at, and we became good friends. We would stay in contact and go out and see each other over the years, and to wake up and read this obituary made me feel completely sick to my stomach. Awful news. Terrible. Our thoughts are with all of your family and friends. May your soul rest in peace. Another good person taken from this world way too soon!!"
Sue Eigl, senior real estate specialist at The Donnelly Group on Franklin Avenue, said she and the Garden City community have once again lost a wonderful man and friend in Dean, or as he was known by friends, Dino.
"Shortly after the untimely passing of Russ, Grimaldi's owner, another warm and welcoming part of all that makes Grimaldi's a one-of-a-kind 'Cheers' like restaurant in our town has been taken too soon," Eigl said. "You will be missed by all who loved you!"
Mindy F. Wolfle, director of marketing for on Franklin Avenue, said she didn't know Mr. LaLima personally but as a customer of Grimaldi's he greeted her like "an old friend" every time she frequented the restaurant.
"There were no strangers entering Grimaldi’s when Dean was there with his welcoming smile and warm words," Wolfe said. "It’s heartbreaking that tragedy has once again struck the Grimaldi’s 'family.'"
Trustee Dennis Donnelly added, "I only knew Dean as the manager and host of Grimaldi's ... There was never a time my family dined there that Dean didn't come over to inquire if there was anything we needed. Dean was a sincere, hard working attribute not only to the restaurant but to Garden City as well. My and my family's prayers go out to Dean and his entire family."
Garden City Patch Facebook fans added these kind words:
Denise Kershaw: "What a sweetheart of a man. He will be missed."
Maria Russo Ingrassia: "Such a tragedy .. He will be missed."
Visiting is Wednesday 7-9 p.m. and Thursday 2-5 and 7-9 p.m., Cassidy Funeral Home, 156 Willis Ave., Mineola. Funeral Mass to be held Friday at 10 a.m. at St. Aidan's Church. Entombment to follow at Holy Rood Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorials to North Shore Animal League are appreciated.
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