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Anthony Saia, the co-founder of the beloved Baton Rouge staple Anthony's Italian Deli, has died, his family announced on Sunday. 

Anthony Saia, co-founder of the beloved Baton Rouge staple Anthony's Italian Deli, has died, his family announced on Sunday. He was 71.

"It is with great sadness and very [heavy] hearts that we announce the death of Anthony. He died peacefully in his sleep on Saturday morning," says the post on the Anthony's Italian Deli Facebook page. "Thank you to all of our family and friends near and far for reaching out with your condolences. He was a great husband, a loving father, an awesome and caring grandfather, a thoughtful brother and generous friend. He was always there for all of us. We will miss you, Poppy."

Saia was born in the Sicilian town of Cefalu and arrived in Baton Rouge in 1971 with his wife, Maria, not long after their marriage in Maria's hometown of Bergamo near Milan, Italy.

The husband and wife opened Anthony's Italian Deli in 1978 in the Broadwood Shopping Center off Florida Boulevard, where it built up a loyal following for its muffalettas, Italian sandwiches and freshly made pasta dishes — and built a little mystique due to its small space and tough to find location. In early 2015, the business relocated from Florida Boulevard to its current, larger location in Mid City, near the intersection of Government Street and Jefferson Highway.

In recent years, Anthony Saia left the management and daily operations of Anthony's Italian Deli to Maria and their two children, Marco and Margaret.

Since the news about Saia's passing was posted to Facebook, condolences and remembrances have flooded the post, which can be seen below.

Email Jake Clapp at jclapp@theadvocate.com.