Durban - Cosimo Turi, one of the founders of Durban’s legendary Roma Revolving Restaurant, has died.
Turi, 76, died at Entabeni Hospital on Tuesday morning after a long battle with a heart condition. He leaves his wife, Myriam, and two children, Gabrielle and Charles.
Turi, described as flamboyant, a joker, straightforward and fiercely loyal, had been in the restaurant business for more than 40 years.
Born in Brindisi, Italy, in 1936, Turi learnt the fine art of catering and hospitality at one of Italy’s top hotels, the Cortina d’Ampezzo.
In 1953, at the age of 17, Turi left Italy to seek his fortune on the gold mines in Johannesburg. But the tug of the hospitality industry was too hard to ignore and he was lured to Durban with a job as a maître d’ at the Durban Country Club.
In the following years he worked at several hotels along the Esplanade and in 1972 was appointed maître d’ at the Edward Hotel.
His quick wit and pleasant disposition, which made him a favourite with patrons, caught the eye of restaurateur Bartholomeo Ribero, who poached him from the Edward and took him to the Roma restaurant in 1973, where he was made an equal partner in the business.
Myriam said her husband had lived and breathed the restaurant business.
“He served four generations of people. Children who came to the restaurant with their parents ended up bringing their kids just to meet Turi,” she said.
“He was a wonderful person and a very good comedian. Our house was filled with laughter and people. At the same time, though, he had a typical Italian temper and took no nonsense. He was a wonderful person. I will marry him again if given the chance.”
Gino Leopardi, one of the founding co-partners at the Roma, said Turi’s death had left a void at the restaurant.
“Turi was one of the most intelligent, witty people I have ever met. He could make anyone laugh. I often told him that he did not belong in a restaurant but on stage. There was a time when a party of people came into a restaurant that he made them laugh so much that the woman fell off her chair. Even as we were picking her up she could not stop laughing. That was Turi, a real gentleman and true comedian,” he said.
Leopardi said that when he first arrived from Italy in 1973, Turi was one of the first people he met.
“We have been friends ever since. He was a straight and a very good friend. In the early days he had quite a temper and he was known to kick people out the restaurant if they were rude. For Turi, right was right. We lost a really great man,” he said.
Turi, who had been ill with a heart condition for some time, left Roma in 2010, soon after the business was sold to the Reelin Group.
Turi would be cremated on Friday in a private ceremony, Myriam said. On Tuesday a memorial will be held on the 31st floor of the Roma revolving restaurant. - Daily News