Giovanni Cannarsa was 14 years old when he embarked on a journey from Termoli– a town on the Adriatic coast of Italy, in the province of Campobasso, the region of Molise to the United States of America. The town he called home was known only as a fishing port – today it is a favorite resort for Italian families.
Giovanni arrived at Ellis Island in 1913. He was ill. The protocol at the time was to send immigrants back home if they suffered from any ailments. It was only able-bodied healthy immigrants allowed to gain entrance to the United States. A woman from Depew, New York (a railroad village in Erie County) had come to greet her nephew and took in young Giovanni. She nursed him back to health and when he was well enough, he went to work for the railroad. Giovanni met a young woman, Rose Tonkery, and in 1927 they were married. They moved from New York to Detroit, Michigan so Giovanni could go to work for a man named Henry Ford.
Giovanni and Rose settled in a neighborhood near the Rouge River plant, where the assembly line was first introduced during the age of manufacturing. There the young couple started and raised their family, two sons and one daughter – her name is Frances. She and her brothers were born in Detroit. They were raised during The Great Depression in the shadows of history – down the street from the Ford Hunger March, which led to the unionization of the U.S. Auto Industry.
The community was a patchwork of immigrants. The Italian families befriended each other, as did the Polish, the Irish and a host of other nationalities. Friends watched out for one another as if they were family in this new land of uncertain opportunity, their homes away from homelands. Frances had a best friend, Marie. She came from an Italian family that lived across the street from the Cannarsa family. It was her older brother – Olindo Truant who captured the heart of young Frances. In 1953 she married her sweetheart. As was customary in the day, the young couple moved in with her folks until they saved up enough money to buy a home. They moved just a few miles away and started their own family. Frances and Olindo had three sons, Chris – Michael and Randy. Olindo worked for Detroit Edison and Frances stayed home to raise her boys. Giovanni Cannarsa lived long enough to see the birth of Frances’ young son, Randy – who would one day run the restaurant named in his honor.
Meanwhile, her mother and brothers decided to open a carryout pizzeria, Givoanni’s Pizza Parlor. It was 1968. As the boys were growing up, Frances started to work part-time at the family restaurant – it was 1970. It didn’t take long for Frances to start taking charge and making changes – it was 1972. Frances decided the family style pizza joint would one day be an elegant, award winning five-star class act. The brothers thought she was crazy…her mother thought she was crazy…her husband called her “nuts”. But the night Frank Sinatra held a private dinner party in the back room of what was now called Giovanni’s Ristorante, was the night the whole family new Frances meant business. Crazy? Yes, crazy like a fox.
This is where the story begins….