Friends Recall Cook Slain at Restaurant

Times Staff Writer

Eddie Politelli was the kind of guy people liked right away.

A generous man who brought pizzas to the Wal-Mart employees who serviced his red Suzuki Sidekick and baked banana cream pies for co-workers.

Who joked and greeted customers at the pizzeria where he volunteered as a prep cook. Who cooked Italian soups that weren’t on the menu for longtime friends.

That’s why those who knew the 72-year-old Providence, R.I., native can’t understand why he was stabbed to death Monday morning behind Mama Mia N.Y. Style Pizza and Pasta on The Old Road in Stevenson Ranch.


Los Angeles County sheriff’s detectives continued to search Wednesday for the killer, believed to be a man who entered the restaurant through the unlocked front doors between 8 and 8:30 a.m. Det. Charles Morales said officials were following leads from as far away as Arizona about a late-model metallic silver or light gray Dodge Magnum station wagon that witnesses said the man was driving.

Meanwhile, friends reminisced Wednesday about Politelli.

“The guy was the greatest,” said Tony Pono, a friend and fellow Rhode Island transplant who had known Politelli for more than 20 years. “This guy could whip up anything out of nothing, and when you taste it, you’re going to die. That’s how good his food was.”

On Monday, Pono took home the remnants of that morning’s cooking, knowing it would be the last time he’d taste one of Politelli’s recipes.

He smiled as he recalled the retiree’s “hound dog,” an old beagle named Lolly whom Politelli carried along everywhere and playfully called his wife. A friend has taken in the dog.

“It’s hard to believe that he’s not going to come drop his car off anymore,” said Chet Nowak, who enjoyed Politelli’s surprise visits -- sometimes with a pizza in hand -- to the Wal-Mart in the same shopping center as the pizzeria. “He was one of our steady customers, but he was more like a friend.”

Shoppers in the large Valencia Marketplace, which contains stores such as Michael’s, Old Navy and Toys R Us, said they were still reeling from news of Politelli’s slaying.

“That’s someone you miss,” said Patricia Rodriguez, who frequents a restaurant next door to the pizzeria. Politelli was a fixture who regularly asked everyone, “How are you today?” as they walked by, the Santa Clarita-area resident said. “What bothers me is his age. Why? Why attack a man who can’t defend himself?

“We’ve been so free of crime out here,” she added. “It’s kind of a sleepy town. Not much going on here after 11 o’clock at night.”

But a man who had called 911 when he heard his friend’s shouts coming from behind the restaurant sees things differently.

“They paint this Santa Clarita as being crime-free, and that’s absolute garbage,” he said. “What makes Santa Clarita so different?”