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Tributes to town’s first ever ice cream van man who also opened Reno’s pizza restaurant

Salvatore Montalbano, pictured standing outside his ice cream van, and, below, as a young man

Salvatore Montalbano, pictured standing outside his ice cream van, and, below, as a young man

Family and friends paid tribute this week to the man who is believed to have brought the first Mr Whippy van and Italian restaurant to Aylesbury.

Salvatore Montalbano, even sold ice cream to the then-Prime Minister Edward Heath, and was well known with his fleet of 11 Mr Whippy ice cream vans.

Mr Montalbano died on August 27, aged 82, after a two- year battle with cancer.

During his illness he found time to write a book about his life entitled All The Innovations of the 20th Century, documenting his life, and how he used the latest technology to support his family.

At the time of his death he was working on a second book, and writing down his favourite Sicilian recipes.

The entrepreneur came to Aylesbury from Sicily in 1955 to start a new life, ahead of his then-fiancee Elizabeth, who he later brought to England to get married.

The couple had five children, Dora, Frankie, Silvana, Rino and Louisa, and Mr Montalbano worked hard to qualify as an electrical engineer to support them.

Dora remembered how as a child she was sitting on the family’s front step, and her father drove up in first ice cream van. He also opened a fresh fish shop in Aylesbury’s underground market as a business for his wife.

Dora said: “We all worked at the businesses from a young age and it made us all who we are today, my dad and I even served ice cream to Edward Heath at Chequers and Roy Castle at the Bucks County Show.

“My dad didn’t understand the word no, if someone said he couldn’t do something, or something wasn’t possible he would work hard to prove them wrong, and make a success of it.”

And working together as a family was a tradition that Mr Montalbano learned from his own father, who worked on the railways. From a very young age he would help his father by doing the books for his Sicily-based business.

Mr Montalbano loved food and entertaining, and in 1979 opened Reno’s, Aylesbury’s first Italian restaurant in Cambridge Street and the town’s first pizzeria.

He also used his electrical skills, and became known as ‘satellite man’ when he helped provide Aylesbury’s Italian community with the latest channels from their country, thanks to two huge dishes in his garden.

Dora added: “The queues outside when we first opened the restaurant were amazing, it was a really big success.

“He was warm and kind, and was always the first person on the dance floor.”

He leaves his wife, five children and eight 
grandchildren, including granddaughter Sophia who he raised as his own daughter.

Sophia, 24, said: “He bought me my first car and was always there for me.

“He supported me in everything I’ve done and my career as a hair stylist.”

Dora added: “Towards the end he said to me ‘I just
wanted to make the world a better place’ and he really did.”

Mr Montalbano’s book is available at www.salvatoremontalbano.com

 

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