At the age of 85, Amedeo “Dick” DeAngelis, founder of Amedeo’s Italian Restaurant, recently passed away, leaving behind a legacy of passion for his community that reaches far beyond great food.
Many NC State faithful would consider Amedeo’s a landmark of the surrounding campus area, with its long-standing tradition of authentic Italian cuisine served in a welcoming and Wolfpack-centered atmosphere. Behind this establishment that multiple generations have come to love is the man Amedeo DeAngelis.
Before coming to Raleigh, DeAngelis grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania as one of four children helping to run his parents’ Italian grocery store while excelling in high school football.
“He was an outstanding high school football player up there,” said David Parker, DeAngelis’ son-in-law and NC State “museum” curator at Amedeo’s. “He was all-conference and he got a lot of attention from different colleges. He wanted to play at Penn State.”
Instead, DeAngelis found an opportunity to play under new NC State head coach Earle Edwards, who had previously played and served as an assistant coach for the Nittany Lions. DeAngelis accepted and came to Raleigh in 1954.
“He came down here without a scholarship and worked in the NC State cafeteria,” Parker said. “He worked there his freshman year just to kind of earn his way, and back in those days, you know, freshmen couldn't play varsity football.”
Playing on the freshman football team and working in the cafeteria on the side, DeAngelis displayed his tremendous work ethic, earning a scholarship and starting spot on the varsity team at the beginning of his sophomore year.
At 6-foot-1, DeAngelis was one of the bigger players on the field at the time, playing both sides of the ball as an offensive and defensive tackle.
“If you didn’t make a first down, you’d run under the punt and play defense,” DeAngelis always said. “Quarterbacks played defense!”
In his senior year in 1957, he helped lead the Wolfpack to its first ACC championship, earning himself a spot in NC State history.
“1992 was the 100th anniversary of NC State’s football program, and they did a lot of awards for the history of the program,” said Parker. “[DeAngelis] was tagged as being the lineman of the decade in the 50s.”
After graduating in 1957 with a degree in education, DeAngelis, newly married to his wife Betty, moved back to Reading in pursuit of his dream job as head coach of his old high school football program. DeAngelis served as an assistant coach for a few years but soon found his way back to NC.
“When he did not get that head coaching job, he and Betty moved back down to Raleigh to open and start the restaurant because he knew there was an opportunity in Raleigh for good Italian food,” said Parker. “The way he always framed it was that the Italian food in Raleigh at the time was ‘ketchup on bread.’”
In 1963, DeAngelis and his wife Betty opened up Amedeo’s at the exact same location it is today. In addition to opening the restaurant, DeAngelis also served as a defensive assistant for the NC State freshman football team, touching the lives of incoming talent as they arrived in Raleigh. DeAngelis helped coach until 1970, the last year freshmen were required to play on their own team before transitioning to varsity.
During that time, the restaurant was an immediate success helped by DeAngelis’ close connections with the University and homemade Italian recipes.
“Coaches and players and a lot of [people] just kind of flowed through the restaurant,” said Parker. “If you were a student or local alumni and you loved the Wolfpack, even in 1963 if you wanted to rub shoulders with somebody involved in that, there was a pretty good chance if you went to Amedeo’s you could do that.”
Serving as a testament to the culture and passion that DeAngelis poured into his restaurant and his community, Amedeo’s has become a tradition for many generations passing through NC State, a tradition that is most apparent on none other than move in day.
“Move in day has always been the busiest day at Amedeo’s,” said Parker. “Folks come to Amedeo’s because their parents bring them there, and their parents went to Amedeo’s when they were students… It's not unusual to see three generations of families coming to Raleigh to move their children and grandchildren into their dorms, and then they all go to Amedeo’s for dinner that night.”
Beyond his football career and restaurant, DeAngelis' legacy has been described by loved ones in three categories: humor, heart and humility.
“You couldn't help but be drawn to his personality and his humor,” said Parker. “He was very quick-witted, but the thing is, he’d use the same ten jokes over and over again, but to [someone new] it was the first time they had heard it. They would laugh and then we would laugh because they were laughing… It really was funny that he was able to do that.”
Beyond the laughs, DeAngelis also deeply cared about people on an emotional level.
“He was probably the most empathetic person I've ever met, and very complimentary,” Parker said. “If you deserved a pat on the back or an ‘atta boy,’ he never missed an opportunity to do that. That's rare.”
According to Parker, DeAngelis lived his life always saying, “It doesn’t cost a dime to be nice to people,” and, “As long as you’ve got more plusses than minuses, you’re good with me.”
“That's just who he was, he never felt like he was better than anybody,” said Parker. “[DeAngelis] just made people feel very comfortable and drawn to him.”
About 15 years ago, after DeAngelis’ wife was diagnosed with cancer, he sold the restaurant to couples David and Ginny Harris, and Rodney and Allison Byrd to focus on what was most important to him: his wife and family. Under the guidance of David Harris, the current president and general manager of the restaurant, Amedeo’s has remained very much the same while rising to new heights.
A couple years later, DeAngelis’ daughter, Jill, and her husband, Parker, bought back a portion of the restaurant, bringing the original family back into the business. DeAngelis also lived with his daughter, Jill, and son-in-law, Parker after his wife’s passing, still surrounded by family for the later years of his life.
The humor, heart and humility put forth by DeAngelis can still be felt today through his restaurant, children, grandchildren and even the NC State community he was so passionate about. Let us look to his hard work and kindness as an example for our own lives as people and members of the Wolfpack.