Restaurateur Mario Freti took an unusual route into catering.

Born in Bergamo, Italy, in 1948, he grew up on a farm with his parents in the neighbouring village of Entratico.

Like many country lads he left school at a young age to help on the farm. But when he was 16 he started work building pylons with his uncle.

He spent a couple of years in the industry in Switzerland before taking the plunge and coming to England in 1966 at the tender age of18.

He moved to Swindon and began life in the catering industry in the early 70’s, settling as a waiter in Mario’s, Wood Street.

Just a decade later he was an established businessman. He opened two restaurants in partnership in the 80’s before going on to open his own Fabio Ristorante on July 3, 1990.

At first it operated from a tiny room on the ground floor that held a maximum of 20 customers and a basement that accommodated another 15.

Mario spent 28 years enjoying every moment there before easing into retirement last year.

His son Giuseppe said: “He was an honest, hard-working man that welcomed everyone with open arms and a warm smile.

“His presence would light up the restaurant and he always wanted Fabio’s to feel like a second home for his customers-turned-friends.

Mario was a traditional, family man, married to Connie for 33 years and a devoted father to Giuseppe and Mela.

Giuseppe told the Adver: “His love and affection were unparalleled and the family feel blessed to have had him as such an integral part of their lives.

“Although he will be sorely missed, they will forever cherish the happy memories.”

Mario died on June 29. The family would like to thank everyone for their kind, sincere words and offer of support during this difficult time.

In light of the current situation, funeral arrangements will be made in the coming days.

In lieu of flowers, donations to Rainbow Trust and Battersea would be appreciated c/o A E Smith & Son, Queen’s Drive, Swindon, SN3 1AW.