Restaurateur Frank Varallo, who operated the landmark Varallo's for more than 70 years, died Sunday morning at age 93. His obituary, provided by daughter-in-law Deborah Varallo, follows after the jump.
Frank Anthony Varallo Jr.
Restaurateur and Author Passes Away at 93
Frank Anthony Varallo Jr. was born Feb. 19, 1914 in Nashville to Frank Anthony Varallo Sr. and Aurelia Reale Varallo. The youngest child of Frank and Aurelia, he was the only one of six children to be born in the United States. His older brothers and sisters were born in Viggiano, Italy. His siblings preceded him in death; they were John Varallo, Rosa Petrone, Nick F. Varallo, Marie Zannini and Lydia Punaro.
Upon his father's death, Frank took over Varallo's Restaurant at age 14. While working full-time he attended Father Ryan High School and later married Mary Eva Reale in 1937. He is survived by his wife Mary Eva Reale Varallo and their four children: Frank Anthony Varallo III, James Edward Varallo (Deborah Garr), Eugenia Marie E. Varallo and Veronica Varallo.
On a recent wedding anniversary, Eva Varallo wrote Frank a letter that stated, "I want to tell you again how much I love you and cherish each day we have shared both good and bad. I thank the Lord each day for having let our paths cross, our hearts meet and blossom into a deep and abiding love." Frank died one day after their 70th wedding anniversary.
Frank's second love was the restaurant where he worked for more than 70 years. Varallo's Restaurant was famous for its chile products and meat-and-three dishes. But the restaurant was also famous because it was the place for politicians, hopeful politicians, government and community leaders and country music stars to be seen.
Frank arrived early each morning to type up the daily menu along with a daily "thought of the day" that eventually became a popular book appropriately titled Thoughts From the Bottom of the Chile Bowl. The restaurant's menu always carried the Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox and Jewish prayers. All were welcomed and loved at Varallo's.
Frank enjoyed watching his grandsons enter the restaurant business. Tony and Todd Varallo worked along side their grandfather for years until they opened Varallo's Too in 1994. Located at 239 Fourth Ave. N., the restaurant carries the same ambiance as the original Varallo's--the walls are covered with photographs of famous, not-so-famous and want-to-be famous patrons.
Although Frank Jr. finally retired in December 1999 at age 85, he and his lifetime companion Eva Varallo continued to enjoy a weekly visit to Varallo's every Wednesday. Frank was pleased that Varallo's Restaurant marked its 100th anniversary this year.
Active pallbearers are grandchildren and great-grandchildren: Frank Anthony Varallo IV, Christopher Michael Varallo, Mark Gregory Varallo, Jennifer Claire Varallo (Fuqua), Marie Edith Brantley (Hedge), David Myers Brantley, Earnest Earl Wright, Todd Linn Varallo, James Anthony Varallo, Timothy Allen Reed, Mary Kathleen Varallo, Heather Sloan Varallo, Jackson Cole Fuqua, Morgan Elizabeth Fuqua, Abagail Christine Hedge, Savannah Marie Hedge, Zachary Davis Hedge, Sawyer Wyatt Brantley, Samantha Tynes Kene, Emilie Alexandria Varallo, Carolyn Veronica Varallo, Jacob Tyler Wright, Gracie Marie Varallo, Kennedy Isabella Reede and Emily Elizabeth Wright.
Visitation will be at Monday, Sept. 10, 4 to 8 p.m. at Christ the King Church; rosary begins at 7 p.m. A memorial mass will be celebrated Tuesday, Sept. 11, at 1 p.m. Rev. Joseph P. Breen and Rev. Dexter Brewer will be concelebrants. The family will receive guests at the church following the mass. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Christ the King Church, 3001 Belmont Blvd., Nashville, 37212.
Traveling around the world as a violinist early in life, Italian-born Frank Anthony Varallo Sr. played for the likes of President Theodore Roosevelt. An injury ended his musical career and forced him into a new one....restaurateur. He learned about chili from acquaintances in South America; he changed the spelling of chili to "chile" and developed his own personal flavoring. The same chile recipe is still used by its fourth generation of Varallo's.
Varallo's restaurant was founded in 1907 by Frank Varallo Sr. on lower Broadway after several years of selling chile at the Climax Saloon on Fourth Avenue. The restaurant moved to Church Street in 1919. Frank Anthony Varallo Jr., at age 14, took charge of the restaurant upon his father's death.
The restaurant became the place where politicians and future politicians made some of Nashville's and Tennessee's most important decisions. Frank Jr. retired in 1999, but not before his grandsons, Tony and Todd Varallo, opened Varallo's Too in 1994 on Fourth Avenue North in downtown Nashville. Varallo's restaurant celebrates it 100th anniversary this year.
(Photograph courtesy of Blair Morgan Photography)