Evangelista Donatelli, then 77, worked with a pair of pants across the table from his son Faustino Donatelli in the back of Donatelli’s Custom Tailor Shop on Munjoy Hill in January 2015. Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

Evangelista Donatelli known to many friends and customers as Vange or Vangie, liked to sit in a white plastic lawn chair on the sidewalk facing Congress Street and wave and talk to people passing by his longtime Munjoy Hill tailor shop.

Donatelli, who opened Donatelli’s Custom Tailor Shop in 1972, died on May 16. He was 84.

He was a master tailor who began to learn the trade when he was 10 years old, living in Lettomanopello, Italy, his birthplace. In 1965, hoping to provide a better life for his family, he immigrated to Portland by boat with his wife, Liliana, and their son Faustino.

Evangelista Donatelli Photo courtesy of Luana Donatelli

His aunt Lucia Donatelli DiPietro had already settled in Portland, and she went to Gordon’s Men’s Shop in Monument Square to ask the owner if he would consider hiring her nephew as a tailor. He not only said he would hire Donatelli, he paid for the family’s trip to Portland. Donatelli, who spoke only Italian, started work the day after he arrived, said his daughter Luana Donatelli.

Tom Johnson, who delivered Donatelli’s eulogy on Monday, said his father-in-law worked hard to establish himself as a tailor people could rely on. Portland was smaller back then, he said, and over time, he got to know many of its movers and shakers.

“Most businessmen wore suits back then, and thus they needed a tailor, and they needed a good one. Back in those years, the 1960s and 1970s, he made lifelong friendships with some of the big city lawyers, accountants and bankers,” Johnson said at the funeral. “They brought suits to him to fix, let in and let out. All the while, they talked with him about the goings on of the day. Police officers, firefighters and real estate brokers. You all know who you are.”


In their early years in Portland, Donatelli and his wife lived on St. Lawrence Street on Munjoy Hill, where many Italian immigrants had settled. They raised four children in Portland.

“He was on Munjoy Hill when you didn’t want to be on Munjoy Hill,” Luana Donatelli said of her father. “There was drugs and crime, but it was all they could afford.”

Some years after opening the tailor shop, Donatelli and his wife opened Liliana’s Laundromat, which Liliana operated until she died in 1999. The couple moved the tailor shop to its current location, next to the laundromat at the corner of  Congress and Lafayette streets.

Evangelista Donatelli Photo courtesy of Luana Donatelli

Donatelli, whose English was always a little spotty, was a hard worker, known for his attention to detail. He worked nearly every day until about five months before his death when his health started to decline, Luana Donatelli said.

“He was an institution,” she said. “He was an incredible tailor. Everyone loved my father. Everyone knew him. Everywhere we went, ‘Mr. Donatelli, do you remember me? I had my pants up there.’ He made people feel special. He had a gift. He made people feel good about themselves.”

Faustino Donatelli, who now runs the tailor shop, began sewing with his father when he was 4. He remembers going down to Gordon’s Men’s Shop with him as a boy.


“I was shortening pants at 9 years old. It was funny as hell,” his son said on the phone, while hemming a dress in the shop. “He was an old-fashioned Italian. We were side by side for 50 years. You name an emotion … I have it.”

Munjoy Hill has seen so many changes through the years, but the tailor shop has been a mainstay. Stella  Hernandez, who opened Hilltop Coffee Shop with her husband, Guy, in 2006, described Donatelli as a “lovely fixture on the hill.”

“He would sit outside in his chair and always be talking to someone,” she said. “He seemed to have command of the block. He was like the center of gravity for the hill.”

Donatelli’s grandchildren grew up playing in the tailor shop and laundromat. His friends often stopped by the shop for coffee, lunch or a glass of whiskey or wine.

Donatelli and his wife attended St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in Portland and he was a member of the Italian Heritage Center.

He was an avid golfer who played at Riverside Golf Course. After playing golf,  Donatelli would invite family and friends back to the shop and they would cook Italian dishes in the small kitchen in the basement, according to the obituary written by the family.


“He was very blessed to have that constant interaction with his family and friends,” Luana Donatelli said.

In 2018, for his 80th birthday, his family threw a surprise daylong celebration at the tailor shop. The mayor of Portland presented him with a key to the city and the bishop of the Portland diocese dropped by for a visit.

For many years, Donatelli lived in Portland’s East Deering neighborhood with his daughter Anna and son-in-law Tom Johnson.

Luana Donatelli laughed when she realized she would even miss his complaining.

“He got cranky as he got older,” she said. “He complained about everything. We all laughed at him. It was pretty funny. He complained about my sauce. It wasn’t as good as his. My meatballs weren’t as good as his. Everything, you name it. To all of us.”

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