Chef was member of top 100 in U.S.
Whether chef Nicholas Colletti was directing his kitchen staff at the Duquesne Club, catering an affair for 1,000 guests or arranging luncheons at corporate board rooms throughout the city, he did it with a sense of pride.
"Chef Colletti was the calmest chef I was ever associated with," said Phillip Bucci, former maitre d' of the Duquesne Club, Downtown. "I never saw the chef get rattled. And you can imagine the turmoil in the kitchen at lunch with over 100 waiters and waitresses and a brigade of 45 cooks hustling to serve 700 to 800 luncheons in an hour and a half."
Nicholas Joseph Colletti Sr., of Brookline, a member of the Royal Order of the Golden Toque, died on Thursday, March 18, 2004, at Mercy Hospital, Uptown. He was 84.
"The Royal Order of the Golden Toque is an organization of 100 of the most talented chefs in the country," Bucci explained. "You can't apply for membership. You have to be asked.
"I was just a young waiter when I went to work at the Duquesne Club in 1945," Bucci said. "Chef Colletti at that time was the sous-chef. He treated me with the same respect as he did the older waiters.
"I was also impressed at how after he became executive chef that he'd go to each station and help during the lunch hour. Pleasing our members and their guests was his top priority."
Bucci said Mr. Colletti would stop what he was doing and explain to a young cook the proper way a dish should be prepared. "No matter how busy he was, Chef Colletti would never turn anyone away who had a question."
Although Mr. Colletti in his 48 years with the Duquesne Club prepared dishes for captains of industry, presidents, members of Congress and governors of the United States, along with foreign dignitaries, he never forgot his humble beginning as a pot washer at the club.
Mr. Colletti was 18 months old when his mother brought him to Pittsburgh from Italy after his father died. When she married again, Grace LoCicero raised her son on the Bluff.
Mr. Colletti's wife, Mary, whom he met when they were growing up on the Bluff, recalled their first meeting.
"I was 13 and Nick was 16. We met at an Epiphany Church fair. We were married five years later. It wasn't easy in those days. My father was really strict, and I had to sneak out of the house to see Nick."
Mrs. Colletti said her husband, after he returned from serving as an Army cook in Europe during World War II, would stay at the Duquesne Club for hours after he finished his shift as a pot washer.
"Abel Bomberault, who was the chef at the time, urged Nick to stay after work and come in on Sundays to learn his way around the kitchen. When Chef Bomberault retired in the early 1960s, Nick was ready to take his place."
"My father enjoyed working at the club," said his daughter, Grace Cararie. "Dad appreciated the fact that he was given the opportunity to work his way up to executive chef."
Irma Thornton, director of human resources at the Duquesne Club, also began her career in the kitchen. "Although Chef Colletti had gentle qualities and was soft spoken, he got the job done," she said.
Mr. Colletti is survived by his wife, Mary Morabito Colletti; a daughter, Grace Cararie, of Jacksonville, Fla.; two sons, Nicholas J. Colletti, of Dallas, and Frank Colletti, of Irwin, Westmoreland County; 11 grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; a sister, Phil Kearney, of Brentwood; and two brothers, Carmen LoCicero, of Brentwood, and James LoCicero, of Whitehall.
He was predeceased by two brothers, Michael and Frank LoCicero.
Visitation is from noon to 3 and 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at L. Beinhauer & Son, 2630 West Liberty Ave., Dormont.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered Monday at Our Lady of Loreto Church, Brookline. The time of the service has not been set.