Worldwide tributes for a pioneering pizza legend who was proud to call Burnley home

Tributes have poured in from all over the world to honour the memory of a much-loved family man dubbed a “true Burnley legend”.

Enzo Manta
Enzo Manta

Vincenzo Manta, co-founder of the renowned Enzo’s Pizza takeaway in Burnley, died last Wednesday in the Royal Blackburn Hospital.

Such was the admiration and stature in which he was held, around 130,000 people have already viewed a tribute post on the Colne Road pizza shop’s Facebook page.

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And thousands of people have left personal tributes and messages of condolence for his family.

Enzo and Maria Manta

Described as a “Burnley boy through and through” Enzo, as many people knew him, never forgot his Italian heritage.

Enzo’s dad Nicolò Manta left Racalmuto, Sicily, in September 1951 to start a new life in England.

He arrived in London and was then sent to Burnley to start his life as a coal miner.

Vincenzo Manta was born in Bank Hall nursing home in 1957.

Enzo Manta visits the Turf Moor Memorial Garden

He attended St Mary’s Primary School and then St Theodore’s RC High School where he excelled on the football pitch.

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His full back talents earned him a place in the town team and he became a popular player in the local Burnley leagues.

In later life he often joked how he had been a better footballer than his brothers Lillo and Giuseppe.

He actually started off his career as a goalkeeper and was so good that the former Burnley winger Leighton James once dubbed him a young “Lev Yashin”.

Enzo Manta and his Manta Ices ice cream van
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He broke his finger and was told by his dad that he either became an outfield player or he stopped playing altogether. He had no choice …

When playing for the Burnley Town team, Leeds United scouts watched him on numerous occasions. They championed Enzo to learn to use his left foot. But he refused, maintaining that he would rather use one good foot and play for his beloved Clarets.

A work ethic instilled in him by his father, saw him start his own ice cream van business, Manta’s Ices, at the age of just 19.

He had started work at Smith and Nephew, working as much overtime as possible, to get the business up and running.

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Enzo Manta with his eldest grandchild Sofia Maria

His son Nico explains: “My dad saved enough money to buy a brand new ‘Mr Whippy’ ice cream van.

“His specialty was an ice cream he sold called the ‘Witches hat’ – a nod to Pendle Hill and its famous witches. This was a favourite of his customers. It was a Mr Whippy ice cream with a rocket ice lolly plonked on top.”

In 1984 he met the love of his life Maria. Marriage followed and the couple had a son Nicolo and daughter Carmela.

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A year later the couple, along with his brother Lillo and sister-in-law Domenica, took the plunge and opened Burnley’s first Italian-owned takeaway Enzo’s Pizzas.

And so a Burnley eating institution was born, opening seven days a week with just four staff.

Now, many decades on, the award-winning Enzo’s Pizzas Takeaway has retained the same traditional Italian values with a fourth generation of the family working there. Brothers Lillo and Giuseppe are familiar faces in the shop.

Son Nico picks up the story: “It wasn’t an easy start for Enzo’s because the grand opening was a disaster as the shop was open for only two hours and the pizza oven broke down. This was a time before the Internet. Lillo and my dad had to drive to Preston and buy a new pizza oven and reopen the next day.

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“It really was a family affair. My grandad Nicolò would lend a helping hand.

“He would sit with 200 kilos of garlic and hand peel and mince it. This was a time when a garlic bread was an unknown dish in Burnley. But it’s popularity and Enzo’s reputation spread rapidly.

“A lot of social media tributes regale stories from customers who remember coming into Enzo’s as kids and now these kids are adults and coming in with their own kids.

“Stories range from those remembering my dad and his famous football debates, from Italian football being played on TV in the background to the famous mythical Enzo kebab which was hand-made by Lillo. It was a dish that customers still ask to be returned to the menu 30 years later.”

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In a special tribute to Enzo, his family said: “Enzo wouldn’t want any doom and gloom over his passing. He was always positive and he was a proud Burnley man.

“He loved this town, he loved the people of Burnley and he loved his beloved Clarets. He was a Burnley boy through and through.

“He is, and always will be, a true Burnley legend.”

One of his wishes is to have a plaque bearing his name in the Turf Moor memorial Garden.

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He leaves, his beautiful wife Maria, his son Nicolò and daughter Carmela, as well as his granddaughter Sofia Maria and his newborn grandson Vincenzo Matteo.

He also leaves brothers Lillo and Giuseppe, sister Maria, mum Carmela Schillaci, sisters-in law Domenica and Maria and his nephews and nieces.

The family has praised all the staff at the Royal Blackburn Hospital.

A family statement reads: “We want to personally thank the NHS staff, the doctors and nurses who tried to save his life. They are risking their lives right now and we would like to thank them for all they’ve done and thank them for trying to save a beautiful, husband, dad, brother and family man.”

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One of the most apt tributes left on Facebook read: “RIP. Such sad news. Now heaven has the best pizzas. Genuinely nice guy. X x”

The funeral and cremation of Vincenzo Manta will be held on Wednesday.

And in a fitting mark of respect, his cortege will pass Enzo’s Pizza Takeaway at 2-40pm and then Turf Moor.

He will me missed by many people across a town he was proud to call home.