Submerging deep to explore underwater secrets is one of John DeNapoli's favorite pastimes. Whether testing his scuba equipment in gulf waters along Fort De Soto or exploring a shipwreck in the Florida Keys, he finds the sport calming. His love of water began as a child growing up on Long Island, New York, where he went to the beach every day during the summer and where he worked at his Uncle Nick's marina scraping barnacles off the bottom of boats. The St. Petersburg resident retired as joint venture partner of Fleming's restaurants in April. A powerhouse of energy, he intends to open an Italian restaurant in St. Petersburg.
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WHAT PROMPTED YOU TO LEARN TO SCUBA DIVE?
I lived in Washington, D.C., at the time. One of my restaurants was located in a health, fitness and spa club, right outside of D.C. in Tysons Corner, Va. They were offering scuba diving classes, and I had always dreamed of doing it. So, I signed up. . . .I like to do a lot of things and keep on moving, so it just seems to fit.
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HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE SCUBA DIVING?
It's probably one of the most relaxing adventures in sports. It's almost like swimming in a huge fish tank in silence, except for the air bubbles that are floating out of your regulator. That's all you hear. . . . You go down 40 feet and float around. There are no phones, no distractions, and you're focused on the beauty of the ocean floor and what's surrounding you. It's just absolutely amazing.
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HAS YOUR PASSION FOR DIVING RUBBED OFF ON ANYONE ELSE?
Yes, on my daughters Sara, 22, who is in her fourth year at USF, and Alexandra, 21, who just graduated from FSU. It's amazing; they just fell in love with it. Both girls recently became certified, and on Father's Day weekend, we went on a Bill Jackson's trip to Islamorada. The girls bought me a plastic vacuum case, designed for my digital camera, so I was down in the water taking pictures. You're diving at about 40 feet deep where the reef is as big as a football field. I got some great shots of sharks, moray eels and a puffer fish. The next trip we have planned is to go lobster diving in the Keys; it's the beginning of a new bonding period.
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WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR OTHER HOBBIES?
Cooking tops the list. I'm a full-blooded Italian, so anything Italian is just great. My father is from a fishing village in Italy, so seafood is big for us. My favorite Italian dish would be Calamari Fra Diablo; a seafood and red sauce over linguini. My plan is to open an authentic Italian restaurant in St. Petersburg. I really can't tell you a lot about it, but it's going to be a home run when it opens up. Everything's going to be made fresh, from the pastas to the ravioli to the sauces. I also enjoy traveling, gardening, reading, writing and eating out. I love to have fun in whatever I do.
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DO YOU HAVE ANY WORDS THAT YOU LIKE TO LIVE BY?
There are three things that my inner voice repeats: Stay positive, keep the passion and stay focused. If you have a plan, stick to the plan, and have the end result in mind. At the end of the day, if you reach the end result, then life is good.
PHOTO - Melissa Lyttle
Delong, Andrew. "OCEANS OF ENERGY." St. Petersburg Times [St. Petersburg, FL] 9 Aug. 2009: 102. General OneFile. Web. 15 Nov. 2009.
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