It started out as another random murder in Miami. A restaurant owner shot down in cold blood during a dispute over a condo tenant. I would not have even finished reading the article had it not been for the victim’s name.
Maximiliano DeVita, owner of several Italian restaurants in Miami.
I knew him as Max; a friendly man with a constant smile; the proud owner of Che Sopranos on Biscayne Blvd. An Argentine-Italian who boasted of having the best pizza in Miami. An amiable host who treated his customers with respect, friendliness, appreciation and cordiality.
I shot the above photo during the first week of the restaurant’s opening last year. Max is sitting on the right, relaxing with a co-workers after closing up shop. It was the third day they had been opened for business, but business was slow. Max, however, vowed it wouldn’t be slow for long.
As to prove his point, he flashed me his smiled and offered me a slice of pizza, but I declined, not out of lack of hunger, but stupid journalism ethics that dictate you shall not receive gifts from sources. Acting insulted, he offered it to me again.
This time, I graciously accepted the pizza, then a second slice. Fuck ethics in the era of Fox News.
Besides, I was now able to determine that Max wasn’t kidding about the quality of his pizza.
I first met him in late February 2007 as I was working on an article about the new restaurants popping up along Biscayne Blvd. The story was part of a series of articles on the undergoing transition of Biscayne Blvd for Category305.com, a Website that would soon go out of business.
A week earlier, I had been arrested for photographing cops against their wishes on the same Boulevard, but that setback was not going to keep me from fulfilling my original plan.
I was trekking along the Boulevard until I came across a small cottage on the corner of 72nd St. and Biscayne Blvd that was undergoing renovations in preparation for a grand opening.
I took a couple of shots from outside, then walked inside to see if there was anybody to talk to about this restaurant.
I was greeted by Max, a smiling man about my age, who was covered from head to toe in paint, dust and sweat. It looked like he was single-handedly renovating the restaurant himself.
He excitedly told me that this would be the future home of Che Sopranos and he welcomed me to come back in a couple of weeks for the grand opening. I asked to take his photo, but he declined because he admittedly looked like crap.
I showed up to the grand opening, which wasn’t much of a grand opening considering it was only a small group of friends and families attending. The real grand opening, he said, would be in a few weeks. And it will be complete with DJs and giveaways.
On the night of his second grand opening, I spent the night taking photos, meeting people and eating pizza. And only because Max insisted, drinking a couple of Heinekens.
I am still searching for those photos in of my many hard drives. I hope they have not been lost during previous hard drive crashes.
I continued to see Max several times over the next few weeks as a diner. I enjoyed sitting in the tables outside where it wasn’t uncommon to see prostitutes and drug dealers walking by.
I even took my then-girlfriend, a long distance lover who would fly in to see me every few weeks. She loved it.
A couple of times, Max would sit at my table and talk about his vision for the Boulevard.
“This is going to be beautiful, just wait and see,” he would tell me.
Unfortunately, he will never get to see.