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Nicola A. Liberatore, former Little Italy restaurant worker

Nicola A. Liberatore, a retired Little Italy worker who later helped his family establish a series of restaurants in the Baltimore area, died Saturday of respiratory failure at his Finksburg home. He was 86.

Nicola Antonio Liberatore, the son of farmers Giuseppe Liberatore and Giuseppina Liberatore, was born and raised in the small town of Palena in the Abbruzzo region of central Italy.

He attended school for several years and then left to work on the family farm. He survived the heavy Allied artillery bombing during World War II that destroyed the family home.

“They rebuilt it brick by brick, and they lived through very, very tough and lean times. The region was devastated, and progress came slowly,” said a son, Dante Liberatore of Finksburg.

Learning that there were better opportunities in Argentina, Mr. Liberatore left Palena in 1950 for Buenos Aires, where he worked as a construction laborer and later became a truck driver.

In 1974, he left Buenos Aires and settled in Highlandtown. He went to work at Velleggia’s in Little Italy, where he did a variety of jobs, including butchering and prep work.

“He quickly demonstrated his strong work ethic and ability to take on so many tasks,” his son said.

He also worked as a bricklayer and did remodeling and concrete work to provide for his family.

He retired from Velleggia’s in 2002, and when several family members began opening Liberatore’s restaurants in Timonium, Eldersburg, Westminster, Perry Hall and Bel Air, he assisted in the undertaking.

Mr. Liberatore visited the restaurants regularly until his “toolbox eventually became too heavy for him to pick up, and he cut back his visits considerably,” his son said.

Gifted with a warm, friendly and outgoing personality, Mr. Liberatore was popular with restaurant staff, who always had an espresso waiting for him when he arrived, his son said.

He also befriended many of the restaurant’s guests, giving them bottles of his homemade wines.

“He made red wines and other varietals,” his son said.

Mr. Liberatore, who later moved to Dundalk, had lived in Finksburg since 2003.

“He didn’t care about politics or money, what made him the happiest was sitting at the head of the table surrounded by his family,” his son said.

A Mass of Christian burial for Mr. Liberatore will be offered at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church, 8420 Belair Road, Fullerton.

In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife of 67 years, the former Cristina Ferrara; three other sons, Italo Liberatore of Kingsville, Pino Liberatore of Finksburg and John Liberatore of Perry Hall; two sisters, Carmela Tedesco and Maria Parente, both of Buenos Aires; 14 grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

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