Larger-than-life restaurateur Mario Ferrari dies - WSMV Channel 4

Larger-than-life restaurateur Mario Ferrari dies

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

A Nashville restaurant legend and true character has passed away.

Mario Ferrari, the flamboyant, bigger-than-life Italian who owned Mario's in Nashville, died of cancer Tuesday night.

He leaves behind loving friends, family and a million stories.

If you are new to Nashville, the name might not mean anything to you, but he brought fine dining to Nashville - Stockyard Restaurant, Wild Boar, Mario's.

His life was anything but dull.

He was Nashville's first celebrity restaurant owner. If you were anybody in Nashville, whether it was Tony Bennett or President Bill Clinton, you went to Mario's.

Ferrari even foiled a hijacking attempt in Rome, Italy, risking his life to save a Pan-Am employee.

He even went out of the restaurant business in dramatic fashion with a huge fire.

He was dramatic and charismatic. He was the kind of man an ex-wife would remain loyal to.

"Mario was a generous, kind person," said Angelyn Chandler, Ferrari's first wife. "He would do anything for anyone. He was easy to get along with and fun to be with.

"He was just an interesting person. I never met anyone like that. He was handsome."

This summer, Ferrari celebrated his birthday with a drop-in wake, a chance to see all his friends drink, eat, laugh and say goodbye.

It was pure Mario to go out with a party.

For the man who called his run on earth "La Dolce Vita," the sweet life, it was not an easy exit. Brain cancer will drain a man's spirit, but even so, Mario was Mario.

"He was happy to see me," said Eric Ferrari, Mario Ferrari's grandson. "He was so generous."

Mario Ferrari is known for bringing liquor by the drink to Nashville, first illegally, the family said, and then legally.

His family are still working on funeral arrangements.

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