Joseph Otranto, 80, Empire Silver Company

Joseph Otranto, founder of Empire Silver Co.

Joseph Otranto, founder of Empire Silver Company, passed away recently at Staten Island University Hospital, Ocean Breeze, after a short illness. He was 80. 

Vinny Mongelli, vice president of sales who has handled day-to-day operations and finances for the company for 22 years, said Otranto never actually retired from the company, a purveyor of fine sterling silver and pewter hollowware.

“Joe was an inspiration to all who knew him,” says Mongelli, noting that Otranto made the long commute across the Verrazano Bridge from his home on Staten Island every day to the factory in Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, N.Y. “In 2006, we had a double reason to celebrate at Empire Silver: the company turned 60 and our esteemed founder and president turned 80,” Mongelli said.

A Brooklyn native, Otranto had settled in the Oakwood section of Staten Island in 1964. He served the Army in Germany during World War II, and returned home to join the fledgling company in Brooklyn his two older brothers founded during his service. Otranto became a partner and later president of Empire Silver Co., Inc. The leadership of the company was passed along to his son, Dennis, and his son-in-law, Vinny Mongelli, but Otranto always remained active in company operations. He enjoyed playing tennis and was a member of the Tottenville Racquet Club.

His daughter, Maria Mongelli, described Otranto as private, generous and humble: “He always wanted to do for others, and didn’t want any attention on himself.” “He had a heart of gold,” said his wife of 57 years, Lillian.

Along with his wife, Otranto is survived by his son, Dennis; his daughters, Maria and Linda; three sisters, Jenny Grimaldi, Gilda Tripi and Helen Tripi; and five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. His granddaughter, Nicole Mongelli, preceded him in death.