One of Rustica's unusual pizza slices

Update: There’s a GoFundMe set up in Maimone’s memory; money will go towards a college fund for his daughters Isabella, 15, and Francesca, 13.

The owner of popular Northern Liberties pizzeria Rustica died in a ski accident in Colorado on Sunday.

Frank Maimone, 53, was found in a tree well near a black diamond trail at Steamboat Resort, according to Steamboat Pilot & Today. Fatalities from ski accidents are very rare; according to the National Ski Areas Association, the U.S. sees an average of just under 40 deaths per year, out of more than 50 million skiers.

Maimone, a native of Haddonfield, N.J., was a major player in the development of Northern Liberties.

Rustica opened near the corner of 2nd and Poplar in 2001, when the neighborhood was mostly full of abandoned buildings left over from its industrial past. At the time, there were only a few other retail establishments nearby, including the 700 Club and Standard Tap.

In addition to his menu of unusual pie toppings and innovative sandwiches, Maimone was known for his involvement in the community. Rustica partnered with local nonprofits like PAWS, Fishtown SPCA, Girls Rock Philly, according to its website

“Frank was a big part of the rebirth of this neighborhood,” said Standard Tap co-owner William Reed, who said his friend had recently taken great delight in ski trips. “I couldn’t guess how many Liberty Land cleanup days and neighborhood charity events were fueled by Rustica pizzas.”

A pizza maker since he was in his teens, Maimone was “a fixture in the neighborhood,” said Matt Reuben of the Northern Liberties Neighborhood Association.

“Frank was a consistent donor of time, food, and energy to everything we did. He had a passion for quality of life, and always held the city and the rest of the community to the highest standard for service and responsiveness.”

Steamboat Springs had recently been hit with an intense snowstorm, local news reported, piling up more than 38 inches since last Thursday. These conditions can trap skiers who fall, essentially suffocating them after they become immobilized.

Per the Associated Press, Maimone was transported from the slopes to the UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. The exact cause of death has not yet been confirmed.

Rustica appears to be operating as usual, at least for the time being.

A call to the shop on Monday afternoon was met with that familiar refrain: “Pickup or delivery?” Asked about the tragedy surrounding the store’s owner, the store worker declined to answer questions.

Danya Henninger is director and editor of Billy Penn at WHYY, where she oversees the team, all editorial decisions, and all revenue generation — including the membership program. She is a former food...