LACONIA — Mike Girardi, the former owner of Nadia's Restaurant, is remembered by his many friends in the Lakes Region as a beloved character whose swagger and sense of humor made him an unforgettable person.
Services for Girardi, 53, who died August 30, were held at Bayside Cemetery Thursday, where a family member said of him ''Michael gave a lot more than he took.''
Jose DeMatos and his wife, Stacie, owners of Channel Marine Cottages, were good friends with Girardi, who their daughters Olivia, 10, and Grace, 8, would call Mr. Karate because they couldn't pronounce his last name.
''He had a lot of Mike-isms and would always say 'what's going on tiddlywinks?' whenever we met. And he'd come into our store and say 'where's Hosey?' instead of pronouncing Jose's name right. He was a great friend and our kids just loved him,'' recalls Stacy DeMatos.
''He was great cook and made the world's best meatball,'' says her husband, Jose, who recalls that Girardi made a special batch of them for his daughter's birthday.
And he says that Girardi had a flair and a sense of style which made him memorable with everyone who came into his restaurant.
''In the 90s NASCAR was just coming into the Lakes Region, Nadia's was the place to go. We'd call up and ask for a table and when we got there he'd have the bruschetta and the balsamic vinegar on the side on our table when we got there, along with a bottle of our favorite wine, Rocca del a Machia, a really good red wine and everything they cooked there was great. His hospitality was wonderful. He'd come and sit down at your table and talk with you. You felt like you were in his home instead of at a restaurant,'' recalls DeMatos.
He said that he and his wife vacationed in Florida with Girardi and his girlfriend and remember him making the best Chicken Parmesan dish they ever had.
''He made a cream-based sauce that was really terrific,'' recalls DeMatos.
Another friend, Tom McCormack, who runs Weirs the Beef, grew up on Boston's North Shore with Girardi and says that Girardi had a John Travolta style personality.
''He was very popular, a funny guy. And when he ran Nadia's and you went in there you could see how he made everyone comfortable. I always remember him riding around in his Mercedes convertible and pulling up and getting out and making some joke that would make you bend over with laughter.''
Friends recounted how Girardi would try to convince people that he was actually the model for the Anthony of Prince Spaghetti ads and how he liked to tell the story of how his mother chased a would-be robber away from her small North End bakery in Boston with a rolling pin.
After the Nadia's restaurant building was sold to TD North Bank, Girardi and his girlfriend relocated Nadia's to the Lobster Pound Restaurant at the Weirs. In recent years he had worked at AutoServ in Tilton.
Born in Brisbane, Australia, Girardi was raised in both Italy and Everett, Mass. and is survived by his mother, Lina, who was a frequent player at the Funspot Bingo Hall, a son, two sisters, two nephews and a niece.
Mike Girardi (Courtesy photo)