PORTLAND – When Amedeo Reali returned home after serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, he planned on helping his father for just two weeks at the family’s restaurant before pursuing a career as an electrician.

“That two weeks never ended,” said his son John Reali.

Mr. Reali took his father’s business, the Village Cafe, from a small, 20-seat cafe established in 1936 to a 500-seat Italian family restaurant. Even when the popular restaurant closed in December 2007, he still had his hand in the works.

“He wanted to work two days a week, which was Tuesday and Thursday lunch,” said his son, who had taken over the restaurant. “He still watched things closely, especially the sauce. That was one recipe he wanted to protect.”

When Mr. Reali and his son locked the doors on the restaurant for the last time, they both “shed some tears,” John Reali said.

“It was sad, but both he and I knew it was time,” he said.

Mr. Reali died Thursday. He was 83.

While Mr. Reali’s family remembered him Friday as a hard worker devoted to the Village Cafe, they also said he was devoted to his family and the “love of his life,” his wife of 62 years, Anita Reali.

The couple met while she was a waitress at Valle’s Steakhouse, which was owned by Mr. Reali’s brother. His daughter, Anne Marie Atherton, remembered hearing stories of their first dates — how he took Anita out for beer and hot dogs.

Even six decades later, Atherton said Mr. Reali told his wife she was “the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen.”

“He adored her,” his daughter said.

Owning a restaurant required Mr. Reali’s attention daily, working shifts from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., or from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and going back in at 5 p.m. for the dinner rush. Despite his long hours, he still found time to teach his children how to hunt and fish and to take them on camping trips.

His son Michael Reali remembers waking up early to go hunting or fishing so his father could be home in time to eat dinner at 4 p.m. before going into work. Mr. Reali taught his children to forage for mushrooms and dandelion greens and to hunt for pheasants and rabbits. The family would eat anything they caught or shot, Michael Reali said.

“He’d go out and he’d always make time to take (us hunting) even though we were probably a burden to him,” his son said. “He instilled a love for the outdoors with us.”

Michael Reali can remember packing up the family car, with a trailer in tow and fishing rods strapped to the roof, to go on two- or three-day camping and fishing trips in northern Maine.

“We had the time of our lives,” he said, even though their tent “leaked like a sieve.”

When Mr. Reali’s eight children were young, the family lived in an apartment in a six-unit building near the Village Cafe. Both John and Michael Reali remember the tenants of the building were like a big family.

“It was a special place,” Michael Reali said. When anybody had a birthday, enough cake had to be made to feed everyone in the building. “It was really neat,” he said.

Living in the Munjoy Hill neighborhood, Mr. Reali’s generosity often led him to care for that community. Michael Reali said it was not unusual for his father to send children who did not have a coat, mittens or a hat to the nearby Levinsky’s clothing store. He would tell Jacob Levinsky, the owner and a friend, to charge what they needed to Mr. Reali’s account, which he later paid in installments. His son said his father helped many people through various charities as well.

“He was a tremendous example for me,” Michael Reali said.

“He worked hard, he worked very hard,” John Reali said of the hours and dedication his father put into the restaurant and his community. “And he enjoyed life. He was very well-respected in the community.”

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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