Sadie Tronco, born to Charles and Anna Serio Carnaggio, on February 18, 1901, moved to Columbia with her parents and siblings around the year 1910. Charles Carnaggio owned one of the first fruit stores in Columbia, located on Gervais street close to Seaboard Railway Station.
During World War I, James Tronco was sent from his home in Philadelphia to Camp Jackson as a medic. There he met Sadie in her father’s fruit store and they married in 1918. They moved to Philadelphia and lived there for a few years before moving back to Columbia in 1930. They had four children- Joe, Charlie, Carmella and Anna Rose. Sadie and Jim opened a fruit store at 1901 Main Street. They named it Iodine Fruit Store because South Carolina was known for iodine in the soil. A few years later, they opened another fruit store at 1712 Main Street. During World War II, a lot of Northern soldiers of Italian descent were stationed at Fort Jackson and were homesick for their mother’s cooking, Sadie began making spaghetti and meatballs for those had become friendly with their family. The demand increased and Sadie, Mama Tronco, was thus the chef of the first Italian restaurant in Columbia. Mama Tronco also introduced pizza to Columbia and initially found herself giving it away because no one knew what it was.
Iodine Fruit Store turned into Iodine Grill and then Tony’s Spaghetti House. Now known as Villa Tronco, the restaurant still serves Mama’s treasured recipes. Mama Tronco, at age 87, was still actively engaged in the restaurant and came most days to see her family and friends until she passed away in 1988.
Family continued to be at the center of the restaurant. Mama Sadie’s Daughter, Carmella and her husband, Henry Martin were in the business with Mama for 41 years. In March 2012, Henry was selected as a recipient of the prestigious SEC Basketball Legends award for his achievement in being the first player to score 1,000 points for the Gamecocks during his basketball career. In August 2016, Carmella and Henry will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary. They retired and turned the family business over to Carmella and Joe Roche in 1972 but are still frequently in the restaurant to visit family and friends.
In August 2015, Villa Tronco celebrated their 75th anniversary. Family and friends joined together and shared stories of their experiences over multiple generations. It was also a time for the family to thank all of their loyal patrons and their newest customers.
Joe and Carmella’s children, Bonner and Carmelina are active in the family business. Bonner, active in the wine industry, overseas the restaurant's wine selection. Him and his wife Kristen added to the family’s 5th generation with their sons, Joseph Bonner (Tripp), Donovan Peter, and their daughter Jorja Harris. Carmelina married Luis Nieto in July 2011 and took over baking Carmella’s Famous Cheesecakes from her grandmother.
Starting their own legacy,, Joe and Carmella initiated a new tradition, Broadway and Opera Nights at Villa Tronco. Upon reservation, guests join together to listen to local singers perform whilst enjoying our full menu. The restaurant building, declared a historic landmark, was restored to preserve as much of the original building as possible . The old walls carry the acoustics beautifully throughout the music filled evenings. In the back dining room you can also see the original stable doors from the old firehouse.
The restaurant's continued success is certainly a reflection of strong family values and the hard work ethic passed down by Mama Tronco throughout the generations. The family continues to carry on their beloved traditions and is grateful for the new endeavors to come.