Vale Tony Sassi | Community says goodbye to iconic restaurateur


Karlie Brady


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Tony Sassi, founder of the Italian restaurant Sassi La Cucina and Bar, passed away on Thursday aged 79. Image: Supplied.
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Tributes have continued to flow as the community says goodbye to an icon of the Port Douglas restaurant scene.

Tony Sassi, founder of the Italian restaurant Sassi La Cucina and Bar, passed away on Thursday aged 79.

Mr Sassi’s life will be celebrated in a service at St Mary's by the Sea, Port Douglas on Wednesday 5 May at 2:00pm.

Family and friends are invited to attend and for those who can’t, the ceremony will be available via livestream. 

Mr Sassi, along with wife Di, first opened their Port Douglas restaurant in 1988 at Island Point in Port Douglas before moving to their present location on Macrossan Street.

Italian to the bone, Mr Sassi was born in Abruzzo on the Adriatic coast of Italy.

He grew up with the wonderful flavours of the Italian seaside which he was able to translate into a modern cucina without losing the heart of Italian food, bringing his homeland to Port Douglas.

Mrs Sassi said she has “lost my beautiful partner in life and business.

“He loved, he sang, he cooked, he danced,” she said.

“He did it all with his heart and above all, he did it his way.

“He passed at home with his family,” she said.

Long-time friend, Bill Conway, owner and chef at Salsa Bar and Grill has remembered Mr Sassi as an “entertaining character, always up for a laugh”.

“I first met Tony 26 years ago when I first came to town, I went for a job interview and we became friends after that,” he said.

“The restaurant was his life; hospitality was in his blood and that is what he thrived on every day.

“He was an inspiration.”

While remembered for his food, Mr Sassi was also known to belt out a tune to customers from time to time, something that Mr Conway will remember fondly.

“We would lunch at Sassi’s and he would come out with his guitar and sing to us.

“He would sing opera or songs in Italian.

“He was not only a great chef but an entertainer as well.

“He will be sadly missed, he was a legend of the town,” Mr Conway said.

Port Douglas businessman, John Morris, has known Mr Sassi for 30 years and said he has left a legacy on the town.

“I have enjoyed Tony Sassi’s remarkable culinary talents from the time that he first set up at Island Point to now,” he said.

“What an amazing gentleman he was.

“He has made a huge contribution to the Port Douglas community and to making Port Douglas a five-star destination.”

Mr Sassi is survived by four children and four grandchildren.

Sassi La Cucina and Bar is scheduled to reopen in the coming weeks after it was closed in February due to building issues. 

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