George Virginio Castagnola, who started as a Depression-era, door-to-door fish salesman and helped evolve his family's business into a small chain of well-known Southland restaurants, has died. He was 77.
Castagnola, who suffered from what a company spokesman said was a lengthy illness, he died Monday at his Santa Barbara home.
Over the years, the Castagnola Lobster Houses had become synonymous with seafood in Santa Barbara and in such other Southern California communities as Redondo Beach and Pasadena, where the family operated seafood restaurants.
George and his brothers, Mario and Lino, turned a door-to-door fish-peddling enterprise into a fleet of fishing boats and several restaurants. In 1983, 11 of their 12 restaurants were sold to Hungry Tiger Inc., the family retaining the one on San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf. Last year, W. R. Grace & Co. took over Hungry Tiger.
Castagnola also was active in Republican politics. In 1952, he ran the Santa Barbara County Eisenhower-Nixon presidential campaign and later was head of the Lincoln Club, a group of powerful and well-to-do Republicans that raised thousands of dollars for GOP candidates.