By Cary Shuman
Dave Riccio of Revere is well known as the owner of the Caffe Vittoria, a famous café located in the heart of the North End.
But Riccio is also gaining prominence as an excellent squash player. Riccio is riding high in the sport after an outstanding showing in the Putnam Pro-Am Doubles tournament at University Club of Boston this past weekend.
Riccio displayed his polished skills while competing with and against the world’s best squash players, highly conditioned athletes capable of hitting a squash ball upwards of 200 miles per hour on a court.
Riccio, 55, has been a member of the University Club, a prestigious and competitive environment for area squashplayers for 15 years. He has been playing squash for more than 30 years.
“I love the sport,” said Riccio. “There’s a great group of guys at this club who enjoy playing squash.”
Riccio, who was formerly a member of the Boston Racquet Club, turned his attention to doubles squash a decade ago. He’s made consistent strides in his game while competing in the fast-paced sport in which players must rely on their superior instincts, instant shotmaking, and teamwork.
Riccio grew up on Hanover Street in the North End where his café is located. He also owns Stanzi dei Sigari, a classic cigar parlor also on Hanover Street.
Squash was not always Riccio’s sport of choice. He was a football player at Waltham High School where he was a teammate of future Boston College and National Football League star Fred Smerlas, with whom he still shares a friendship. He also played high school tennis and kept at it before making the transition to squash at the age of 25.
“I just picked up squash and it’s a great game,” said Riccio. “I was at the Boston Racquet Club for 10-15 years and a couple of guys asked me to join the University Club. As soon as I joined I met a lot of great guys and I have made some lifelong friendships from this club.”
Riccio said he never took lessons in the sport. He’s a regular in club and pro-am tournaments and enjoys the competitiveness of the events.
Riccio’s partner in the Putnam Pro-Am Doubles was Fred Reid Jr., a 20-year-old up and coming world-ranked professional from Toronto. Riccio and Reid won the North Draw championship in dramatic fashion, claiming the final game 15-14 in sudden death.
“Fred’s a great player and we really clicked well on the court,” said Riccio. “It’s a fantastic experience playing alongside the professional player. It’s a totally different game because we’re playing at one level and these guys bring it to another level. I learned so much just from watching them play the game. The patience and strength and agility that they have is amazing.”