SALT LAKE CITY — Caputo's Market founder Tony Caputo, whose popular deli fed thousands of Utahns through the years and helped revitalize the Pioneer Park neighborhood, died on Wednesday at the age of 72, his family confirmed.
Caputo's daughter-in-law Yelena told KSL.com his death was "very sudden" and may be heart-related, but is not tied to COVID-19.
With backing from partners Dr. Dominic Albo and Chris Hase, Caputo opened Caputo's Market & Deli on 300 South, just across from Pioneer Park, in 1997. The market has since become renowned for its high-quality ingredients and rare food items for sale, as well as for quick quality lunches enjoyed by the downtown business community.
According to a 2017 Deseret News profile, Caputo was born in Carbon County where his father, former Utah State football player Nick Caputo, was coaching. He grew up in Rose Park and the Cottonwood area.
Tony's grandfather, Italian immigrant Rosario Caputo, operated the Ross Caputo Grocery in Rose Park when Nick was growing up.
Tony Caputo worked the deli counter at Granato's for years before being laid off in 1996. It was his love for that work, his Italian heritage and background with food that made him take the leap and open his own store, he told the Deseret News.
He quietly retired years ago and left day-to-day operations of the thriving deli to his son, Matt, and Matt's wife Yelena. Caputo's has expanded to new locations in the 15th and 15th neighborhood, the University of Utah and in Holladay.
"We buy the very best we can find," he told the Deseret News about his purchasing philosophy for the store, "and then we worry about how much it costs."
In a Facebook post Wednesday afternoon, Matt Caputo said he's "never known a more loved person" than his father.
"The best days of my life were spent working with him in the deli and watching how he would treat each person having lunch," he wrote. "It didn't matter what color your skin was, if you were the Governor, or a blue collar worker. He made each person feel like an old friend by welcoming them with genuine kindness, respect, and hospitality."
He said the Caputo family "would like to extend our love and gratitude to each of you."
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall called Tony Caputo a personal friend and a "giant in our community."
"His love for Salt Lake City, incredible food, and his family, was palpable," she said on Twitter. "He will be dearly missed."