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She's got a whole lot of living to do

Angie Surovick has worked for almost 8 decades and, at 93, has no plans of slowing down.

By LORRI HELFAND
Published February 4, 2007


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photo
[Times photo: Kathleen Flynn]
Angie Surovick greets Mike and Merry Rogak, who visit Juliano's Cafe at least once a week. Surovick runs the restaurant with Jim. Mike Rogak said Juliano's is the only place in town that offers steak and Italian beef, done the Chicago way.

LARGO - Six days a week, you'll find Angie Surovick at Juliano's Cafe whipping up ravioli, gnocchi and manicotti with her son, Jim.

At her age, most folks would think it's time to slow down.

But Surovick, 93, has been working on and off for almost eight decades, and she's not ready to quit.

"How many people my age can do this? Not many," Surovick said. "God's been very good to me."

As a teen in Chicago, she ran a large machine at a paper company to help support her family. Her parents were Italian immigrants, and her father - who didn't speak English - had a hard time finding work.

Later, she ran a beauty parlor, got married, raised Jim and daughter Judith, and helped her late husband, Jim Sr., with several of his 11 businesses over the years.

Before her husband died about a decade ago, she also ran a beauty shop for Hospice Woodside. And she helped out at the family used-car dealership.

Three years ago, Surovick and her son opened up the tiny Italian cafe at 312 West Bay Drive.

The name Surovick didn't sound very Italian, so they decided to use her maiden name, Juliano.

"He Jim always wanted a restaurant," said Surovick, a petite woman with white hair and a wide smile. "I thought I'd let him try it and I'd help him."

* * *

The two-person operation is truly a partnership.

On Thursday afternoon, the two stood around a large kitchen table and made meatballs. He mixed ground chuck, eggs, bread crumbs and seasonings and rolled the mixture into balls.

She grabbed the meatballs with tongs and pan-fried them in extra virgin olive oil, before placing them in aluminum trays.

They follow a similar routine when they make other dishes, like ravioli. She mixes the dough, he makes the filling, and she folds and crimps the ravioli into massive squares.

Jim Surovick, 58, created a signature spaghetti sauce from his mom's recipe.

His mom has never been one for measuring, so he used a scale to weigh her pinches and handfuls of ingredients to convert the classic recipes to restaurant-sized portions.

With each dish, all under $5, they give out a couple of free miniature chocolate cupcakes. They've made about 30,000 since they opened in March 2004. Surovick knows because she keeps track of the mini baking cups.

"Men love chocolate," she said, as she scooped the dark batter into tiny cups.

"Women like it, too, mom," replied her son, rolling his eyes.

"He roasts all of his own meat," she bragged. "I do all of the packing. Everything we do in here is home-cooked."

Throughout the day Thursday, about two dozen customers trickled into the cafe, its walls decorated with family photos and e-mails from relatives.

With just two tables inside and two outside, it's mostly a take-out operation.

Adam Craig, who stopped in to order a Chicago-style roast beef sandwich, said most of his family is retired by Angie Surovick's age.

Hours later, Jerry Kleinwachter came by for two lasagna dinners to go.

"Honey, sit down and have a seat and I'll bring you a couple of cupcakes," said Angie Surovick, while her son plated the entrees.

"What would you do if you weren't here every day?" Kleinwachter, 61, asked.

"I'd be so bored," she said, placing a few cakes on a plate for Kleinwachter's appetizer.

Truth is, she'd probably find something to do, just like she did when she ran out of work around the office at her family's car dealership.

Back then, she painted pictures of cats, dogs and birds and gave them to customers. And when she noticed that many of the customers were young families, she made booties for babies and clown dolls for little girls.

* * *

While she keeps pretty busy, Angie Surovick still finds time for an occasional rest during the day. When it's slow and she's tired, she climbs into a papasan chair in a cramped space behind the kitchen and watches a portable TV.

For the most part, she's pretty healthy. But she takes medications for high blood pressure and cholesterol. And a couple of years ago, she was out of work a few months after injuring her right rotator cuff and left hip in a fall.

Her son, who visited her virtually every day, morning and night, missed her.

"There's little things she does, I couldn't get done," he said.

One of those little things was making cupcakes. He just didn't have time without her help. And customers weren't too happy.

"I'm amazed at her age what she's doing," he said.

Most days, she starts work about 9:30 a.m., and she's home at Oak Crest/Acorn mobile home park in Largo a little after 7 p.m., when the shop closes up. On Saturdays, she usually wraps up about 5 p.m.

Most nights, she unwinds by watching her favorite shows. She takes off her shoes, puts on her nightie and slippers, nestles into her recliner and watches Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and Paula Zahn Now on CNN.

She also spends about 15 minutes praying for about 100 of her friends, some at the mobile home park and some from Chicago.

Later, she climbs into bed and watches The Late Show with David Letterman, although she doesn't know why because she "can't stand him," she said.

She doesn't plan to work forever. But for now, it feels right.

"When I'm tired I'll quit," she said. "I'll know when I can't work any more."

Lorri Helfand can be reached at 445-4155 or lorri@sptimes.com.

[Last modified February 3, 2007, 21:10:46]


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