The landmark Omaha restaurant was called Mister C's Steakhouse, but "Mrs. C" — Mary Caniglia — was as vital to its success as was her husband.
"She was half of Mister C's. She was the heart of Mister C's," said son David Caniglia of Omaha. "My dad had grandiose ideas, but my mom made them happen. She was the unseen hero of Mister C's."
Mary E. Marino Caniglia, Mrs. C, died Monday at Hospice House-The Josie Harper Residence. The 87-year-old died of Alzheimer's disease complicated by a fall, her son said. She would have turned 88 on Saturday.
Mary Caniglia grew up in Omaha's Little Italy neighborhood with Sebastiano "Yano" Caniglia and later married into one of Omaha's largest restaurant families.
Mr. C and his wife served their last meals at the restaurant, 5319 N. 30th St., on Sept. 30, 2007. They served their first meals at the same address in 1953. At its peak, the restaurant could seat 1,400 between indoor and outdoor spaces.
The couple worked hand-in-hand through expansions, remodelings and changes from Caniglia's Royal Boy drive-in to a sit-down steakhouse. The last expansion was in 1988, when Piazza di Maria, an outdoor space named for Mary, opened.
Son David Caniglia said of the restaurant's recipes: "If it didn't pass mom's taste test," it wasn't used. She also kept the books, he said.
Besides son David and her husband of 67 years, other survivors include sons Larry of Florida and Tom of Aiken, S.C.; six grandchildren; and 13 great-grandchildren.
A celebration of Mary Caniglia's life will begin at 6 p.m. Sunday at Braman Mortuary, 1702 N. 72nd St. Afterward, the family will gather for a meal at Piccolo Pete's restaurant; one of Mary Caniglia's late sisters married into the Piccolo family.
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