Italian a Day: Peter Greco

NIAF da Vinci Council Member Robert M. Greco sent the Foundation this special submission about his father, the late Peter Greco (1952-2020) who sadly passed away on December 8.

“There are no words to describe the true nature of this incredible man,” shared Robert. “Peter touched the lives of thousands of people. He was a leader in the truest sense of the word. He was passionate and compassionate in everything that he did, and he lived his life with this in him every step of the way.”

Peter was born in a small village in the mountains of the Molise region of post-war Italy. As he would say “I was born in a cave,” literally. The town had no running water or utilities and not even a paved street. At the age of eight, he lost his mother to disease and his father went off to find work in Germany, essentially leaving him an orphan. He was raised by the village and endured unimaginable hardships.

At the age of 16, in 1968, he and his father immigrated to Brooklyn in search of a life he could only dream of.  Upon arrival, in Brooklyn he was enrolled in Lafayette High School, eventually graduating in 1970. Thrown into a new culture with a new language and little to no family, Peter thrived. He educated himself and kept himself from the temptations of the times in that area. He found work in a pastry shop in Bensonhurst, cleaning the floors and washing dishes at night when the shop was closed. Little by little, he started making cakes and pastries and became a master pastry chef. He even made the wedding cake when his father re-married.

Soon after, he opened an office providing translation services and travel services to Italian American immigrants in Bensonhurst, eventually adding tax services to his business. On June 1, 1973, he opened up his flagship Brooklyn location on 86th Street and this is where his empire began. He continued to expand his education, obtaining licenses and degrees unimaginable by most, let alone an immigrant to this country. He also expanded his business in the 80s and 90s when he came to New Jersey and continued his vision. As his children grew older and started getting involved in the business, he took the business to new heights. He and his family brought the CSI Group brand to a household name with 21 locations in New Jersey, New York and worldwide.

In addition to his business, Peter was passionate about his country, his roots and culture. He took pride in making his own olive oil from his olive grove, his own wine from his vineyard and sharing in the delicacies of the old world. He enjoyed his time on his boat cruising up and down the Barnegat Bay.

Above all, he was the epitome of a family man. His love, generosity and compassion for his family were unmatched. The light in his eyes and in his heart seeing the growth and accomplishments of his children and grandchildren was an amazing sight. Anyone that had a chance to meet him, even briefly, knew that his family was his life. His selflessness in this regard was astonishing. His children idolized him, and his grandchildren revered him. He wasn’t just a husband; he loved his wife with every fiber of his being and cared and provided for her like no one else. He wasn’t just a father; he was a dad in every sense. He was a mentor to his children and to countless other friends, relatives, clients, business associates and acquaintances. He wasn’t just a grandfather, he was “Nonno.” His grandchildren lit him up as he did to them.

His children were his legacy, and he lived his life each and every day with them at the top of his mind. His first thought was, what is best for his children. This selflessness earned him the love and respect of his family in good times and bad. He pushed those around him and especially his children to match and exceed his drive and offered guidance that only he could.

He built an empire leaving a legacy that will continue for generations to come, coming from nothing, nearly parentless. It was his passion, his drive and his ambition that led him to success matched by few, especially coming from the dire poverty of his surroundings. He built one of the most successful businesses in the country through this passion and hard work and his love for his family and country and for his roots. A true self-made man, he never forgot his roots, he embraced them.

Peter was an inspiration to many and provided guidance on the “right way to do things” to people near and far. He opened his business and his home to friends and strangers alike. His home was your home, and his boat was your boat. He lived his life for this, and nothing made him happier than seeing those around him enjoying the fruits of his hard work and vision. He was a man of extraordinary vision and leaves a void in the lives of those around him too big to imagine.

Peter’s personality was larger than life. He commanded the room wherever he went, and he was the authority on any subject that would come up. Not only in his tremendous expertise in his business and education, but in what he was passionate about, his passion for the old country and his own home-made olive oil, wine, cheese and specialty cakes and desserts which he loved to share with friends and family. One word that describes his attitude towards life is PASSION. He opened his home, his shore home and his home in Italy to the world. Everyone was welcome. He told stories that would captivate his audience whether it was one-on-one or in a room full of hundreds of people and no one would interrupt until he was done. He had that kind of presence.

Even in his death, we feel that presence around us and every decision moving forward would be met with the question, “What would Peter do?” That inevitably would be the right answer. He is a legend and left a legacy that will be unmatched.

If you’d like to make a submission to NIAF’s “Italian A Day” initiative, email the photo and description to media@niaf.org.

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