New life for a taste of Italy

Life changing events sometimes come along by choice, something that we expect, or something that we anticipate while navigating a long road of experiences and milestones. But it’s the events that we don’t expect that can have the most jarring and ever-lasting imprint on our lives and the lives of our families and friends. This became evident to Kim Marino, co-owner of Marino’s Italian Restaurant, 2868 Reach Road, on Valentines Day.

While making preparations for an evening filled with reservations, she was troubled to find out that her husband of 31 years, Sal Marino, was having chest pains and trouble breathing. This wasn’t something that was foreign to Kim. Sal did have trouble catching his breath before, usually during the workday.

“I would open the door so Sal could get some fresh air, he would catch his breath and the day would continue. Sometimes there would be some chest pain but I thought it was just some anxiety,” she said.

This time, however, the chest pains and shortness of breath continued and she thought it would be best to go see the doctor to get checked out.

The EKG at the doctor’s office wasn’t encouraging and it was soon determined that going to the hospital was the next logical step. Still, not believing that the situation was dire, Kim kissed Sal on the cheek and told him she had to go back to the restaurant to prepare for the night. She told their son, Salvatore, to keep her posted on how things were going and then left.

However, things began to take a turn for the worst when the anxiety of being in the hospital made Sal’s lungs fill up with fluid.

“My son called me and told me to close the restaurant and get back here right away. ‘It’s bad,’ he said. And I was saying, ‘It can’t be this bad,’ not wanting to believe that it really could be,” Kim said. “So I called my sister who came to take care of the restaurant for me and I rushed to the hospital. I didn’t even get to say goodbye,” she said.

While sitting in the waiting room for three and a half hours, the bad news continued to come in.

“Everything was a fog, I remember seeing the doctor come down the hallway and he came in shaking his head saying, ‘It’s really bad, he flat-lined twice and we had to work really hard to get him back, we don’t know if he’s going to make it through the night, he’s just so weak – we give it a 50 percent chance,’ ” she said.

The decision was made to transport Sal by LifeFlight to Hershey Medical Center. There his numbers were stable but he was still on full life support for the next five days and the doctors were constantly taking liters of fluid from him.

“We did everything we could think of to do ourselves. We prayed with him and talked to him all the time. When my son and my daughter Nicole had left to go home, I leaned over to talk to him. I always call him Marino, and I said, ‘Marino you’re here, you’re safe, but don’t you leave me,’ and wouldn’t you know it at that time his eyelids opened but his eyes were rolling back in his head. The doctors said he shouldn’t have been able to do that with the amount of medication he was on,” she said.

Sal’s condition continued to improve and he was sent home on the seventh day of his ordeal.

“The first thing he said when he was able to speak was, ‘I want coffee,’ which was so typical and like him to say, as much as he enjoys it,” she said.

Throughout the whole process, though, there were still problems that needed to be solved. On May 8, three days after Nicole had Sal’s granddaughter, he had a quadruple by-pass surgery and aorta re-construction performed on his heart.

On July 1, while still in heart rehabilitation, Sal started back to work – and things couldn’t be going any better at Marino’s Italian Restaurant.

“I feel better and better every day,” she said. “When I was younger, I used to take four days off a year, work 12 or 14 hours a day, and I never thought something like this could happen to me, but it did.”

Little by little, life is returning to normal for the Marino’s and the business that has become their life.

Sal came to the United States when he was 15 years old from Palermo, Italy, where his family still calls home. Marino’s Italian Restaurant has been in its Reach Road location since May 2006. Before that they were located in the Dunkin Donuts plaza in Newberry where they opened on July 14, 1986.

Sal believes that too much has been lost in the preparation of the food itself and prefers the old style way of doing things.

“Some people talk about preparing their sauce all day. If you do that, all the natural flavor is going to be out of it. I prefer it natural, not too much seasoning, keeping the flavor that it’s supposed to have,” he said.

Indeed, a lot can be learned from this, in a “fast-food” paced society. It’s good to have an old fashioned and experienced approach as an alternative.

A lot of restaurants have specials – certain things that they can hang their hat on. “I like the simple but effective style,” he said. “I think all of our food is special – our subs, our pizzas and our entrees are all prepared specially for our customers.”

Sal’s future plans are focused on the restaurant and its continued success. One has the true Italian experience when they set foot in Marino’s Italian Restaurant. For reservations, call 323-4551.