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Obituaries

Man was master of Duquesne Club's house

| Thursday, April 27, 2006

As the maitre d' of the Duquesne Club, Phil Bucci interacted with royalty, presidents, celebrities and captains of industry.

Mr. Bucci gave 46 years of service to the Downtown club, one of the top business clubs in the country.

Francis Filomeno "Phillip" Bucci, of Beechview, died of a stroke on Tuesday, April 25, 2006, at Mercy Hospital, Uptown. He was 76.

"Phil worked part time at the club while still attending Central Catholic High School," said Melvin Rex, the Duquesne Club's retired manager. "He worked his way up the ranks from busboy, waiter and captain to maitre d'.

"Phil was an old-school individual who loved his job and was willing to work long hours. And, yet, Phil was as active in his retirement as he was at the club. He was also a member of numerous prestigious culinary societies, and traveled throughout the world to attend their conferences."

Mr. Bucci held an honorary membership in The Honorable Order of the Golden Toque, a national organization of 100 chefs.

The Golden Toque -- which means "Golden Chef's Hat" -- was founded in France and is the highest recognition a chef can receive in America.

Born in Abruzzi, Italy, and raised in Oakland, Mr. Bucci was one of three sons of Luigi and Almerinda Bucci.

In order to raise the $90 a semester that he needed for tuition and books at Central Catholic High School, Mr. Bucci worked part time as a busboy at the Duquesne Club. Upon graduation in 1949, he became a full-time employee.

It was while Mr. Bucci was serving in the Army during the Korean War that he met Elizabeth Domostoy, of the South Side, who was employed by Bell Telephone. They were married in 1951, while he was on leave.

His daughter, Nancy Johnsen, recalled how exciting it was for her and her brother to visit the club when they were children and to meet then-Executive Chef Nicholas Colletti and tour the kitchen, where the staff could turn out 1,000 lunches on a busy day.

"My brother, Dan, and I knew that the chef would treat us to the club's famous macaroons. And that was a real treat."

Johnsen said her father was a kind and caring man who was a master storyteller. "As kids, we loved listening to Dad tell us stories like the time he held Liberace's fur coat or how Princess Grace winked at him.

"And through the years, when Dad wasn't at work, he enjoyed sitting on the back porch of our home with Chef Colletti and talking about his garden."

Irma Thornton, director of human resources at the Duquesne Club, recalled how Mr. Bucci, while a student at Oakland Catholic, walked from Oakland to Downtown to save the streetcar fare.

"I enjoyed listening to Phil describe the legions of notables that dined at the club, including King Constantine of Greece, opera singers Luciano Pavarotti and Beverly Sills and Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Bush."

Thornton described Mr. Bucci as being the ultimate diplomat when it came to dealing with his workers, but a tough boss when it came to disciplining his staff of more than 100 waiters, waitresses and busboys.

His family said Mr. Bucci was a doting grandfather who was always ready to vacation with his children and grandchildren.

"Dad was always concerned about his grandchildren," said his daughter. "Before my daughter, who he called his princess, was married eight months ago, Dad wrote her a long letter expressing how pleased he was that she was marrying such a fine young man."

Mr. Bucci is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Domostoy Bucci; daughter, Nancy Johnsen, of Brookline; son, Daniel Bucci, of Beechview; and three grandchildren, Angela Albert, Daniel Johnsen and Michael Bucci.

He was preceded in death by his brothers, Nick and Tony Bucci.

Visitation will be from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. today and Friday at Beinhauers, 2630 W. Liberty Ave., Dormont.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9:30 a.m. Saturday in St. Catherine of Siena Church, Beechview. Burial will be private.

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