By Randy Johnson
March 8, 2013. Mike Sollecito’s passing is a time to pause and reflect for many residents of the Boone area—and a far wider circle of Appalachian State University students. For decades, Sollecito’s Pizza was a landmark eatery in Boone, a regular stop for locals in search of the area’s best pizza, and students on dates and out with friends.
If you were lucky enough to have seen him in action—you’ll never forget Mike’s signature schtick—crooning to songs by Dean Martin. He was so Italian, so perfect for the part.
When Mike—“Mr. S” to everyone—sang “That’s Amore,” his pizza shop came to a stop and memories were being made. Everybody knows the words to that song, and Mike would sing it with gusto as he artfully interacted with the crowd.
As he sang about love—”When the moon hits your eye, Like a big-a pizza pie, That’s amore”—he would target a young couple, usually ASU students on their first date, and croon his way past singing…
Like a gay tarantella…”
And when he sang the punchline—“lucky fella…”—he’d tap the young college guy on his shoulder while his date looked on, blushing bright crimson …
He and wife Mary—”Mrs. S”—ran a popular restaurant, but it took dedication and hard work. He was always in motion bussing tables, keeping the restaurant clean, and always optimistic, telling employees that, “This is gonna be the big one. It’s gonna be a big, big night!”
Mike was instrumental in the movement to make alcohol available in Boone restaurants. Kevin Conway, who employs Sollecito’s daughter Donna Sollecito at SOS Printing, says “Mike Sollecito is one of the biggest reasons why beer came to Boone.” He was responsible for the noteworthy sign-of-the-times: “A Polish Pope, A Man on the Moon, We think it’s time for Beer in Boone!”
ASU sports are big now, and Mike Sollecito was one of the biggest boosters of ASU football and basketball. He was a tireless, single-minded, door-to-door season pass salesman, and Conway remembers, “outsold everyone year after year. He was a huge early booster of ASU sports.”
L. Talton Dark III, a Morganton attornery with long ties to the Boone area, remembers Mike Sollecito fondly. “I always went there after skiing, took dates there, it was one of the most fun, and best, places to eat I’ve ever been to. What a great man he was, and what a great white pie he made! We knew each other by name—kind’a,” Dark recalls chuckling. “He’d call me ‘Tarlton’ every time I went in, and I eventually stopped correctly him to ‘Talton.’ It was cute. Made me feel as special to him as he was to me—and my dates!”
Sollecito’s was nothing less than a legendary fixture of dining and college life in Boone when people remember the 1970s and 1980s. The best parts of our past always have a kind of glow about them. For many, many people in the High Country, and beyond, Mike Sollecito’s restaurant, his bright smiling face and infectious good will, are a big part of what “good times” meant in Boone and at ASU.
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