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March 14, 2014     Post-Gazette
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March 14, 2014

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POST-GAZEI-FE, MARCH 14, 2014 Page13 Kt yt a 00Babb00onno i i It was school break and I was off to Florida all by myself. After I arrived in Miami, I headed to the Fontainebleau Hotel to pick up my friend Maryann and her cousin Harry. We were going to head out for a lei- surely dinner and I had thought of bringing them to an Italian restaurant I had heard about. Instead, Harry asked if I had ever had authentic barbecue, and when I said no, insisted we head for a smokehouse he had eaten at. The only barbecue I had ever tried was either at Bob the Chef or Slade's, both famous for their fried chicken and ribs, back in the day. Harry insisted and we climbed into his Rolls Royce convertible and headed to North Miami Beach. There was a pop- ular nightclub called the Castaways that we passed en route to the restaurant, and I mentioned that it was well known even in Boston. Maryann added that, if I hadn't been there yet, it was a "must stop at" type of a place before the vacation was over. Soon we were on a side street stopped at a place called "The Pit." From the outside, you could smell the ribs cooking in barbecue sauce. The smell wasn't Italian, but it was mouth watering. Once we were seated, I tried the "Tempt A Yankee" plate, a sampler of all things southern. When the food was served, my plate contained spare ribs covered with bar- becue sauce, fried chicken, collard greens, rice with black-eyed peas (which are actually beans), fried okra, a wedge of corn bread and homemade lemonade. Des- sert consisted of coffee and sweet potato pie. Actually, I enjoyed the entire meal. It wasn't lasagna with meat- balls and sausages, but it was good. As the meal came to an end, Harry said to Maryann that it might be interesting if they brought me to Tony's Fish Pier. To me, there was the Boston Fish Pier and New York's Fulton Fish Mar- ket, but they operated early in the morning to about mid- day. It was about 9:00 in the evening and we were dressed for a night on the town, not a night in a fish market. I was apprehensive until they told me that the place was a plush restaurant with a surprise in the back. As we drove back to Miami Beach, I wondered what was in store, as I was con- fused. When we arrived, Harry spoke to the maitre-d, who made a phone call and came back with, "You are expected." We exited the res- taurant and headed for a very big yacht docked in the back of the place on Biscayne Bay. Within a half hour, the boat was under by John Christoforo A Nostalgic Remembrance After awhile a voice came over a loud speaker stating that we passed the three- mile limit. When the state- ment ended, both Harry and Maryann said, "Let's go." We left the cocktail lounge and headed mid-ship. By the time we arrived at our des- tination, cloth coverings had been removed from all of the locations the guests might want to be at -- blackjack tables, crap tables, roulette wheels, bird cages and slot machines. The boat was a gambling ship. Gambling was illegal in Florida, but its jurisdiction ended at a three-mile limit. As a result people could gamble. I watched Harry drop over a thousand dollars at a crap table as if it was nothing. I played a little blackjack and made about ten dollars. Maryann just watched. Later that night, I offered to buy coffee with my winnings, and on the way back, Harry headed for Wolfie's, a then famous deli that was open late. The next day I headed for the beach with my school teacher friends from up north. We all worked on our tans as a winter's heat wave made life perfect for us. When I arrived back at the apartment hotel I was stay- ing at, there was a message for me from Ralph Porras. He wanted me to meet with him in the lobby of the Hotel Doral that evening before he was scheduled to play. When he showed up, he was ready for work, with a neatly pressed tuxedo and a large suitcase that contained his accordion. We talked for a bit and he offered me a job. He was doing so well booking music in and around Miami that he was sending out four or five bands during the week nights and ten or more on the weekend nights. He said, "You know the tunes the people dance to, you look good all dressed •up and I think the men would listen to you as a leader. You could front bands under my name just about every night of the week. The pay would be bet- ter than union scale and I would add on the leader's commission. What do you say?" This was unexpected and I was thrilled, but I didn't want to make a commitment without talking things over with my family. I also knew that Ralph was close with way. Harry ordered dris .a.nd We headed, qqt. tp ..... sea. np. w.time tppiek up M and meet my Boston school teacher friends at an Italian restaurant. D'Agostino's was one of Miami Beach's authentic Italian restaurants accord- ing to reports I had heard. The best recommendation came from the man who headed the parking conces- sion at the Fontainebleau Hotel. He was a Sicilian from Brooklyn. That was good enough for me. I picked up Maryann and headed toward D'Agostino's. En route, she said in her southern accent, "Ahve had Eyetalian food befoah, ya'all know about that Chef Boy-ar-dee in a can, it's real good." I cringed, said nothing, but assumed that we had a real cultural difference. My friends were wait- ing for us, and Maryann was introduced to Italian bread dunked in olive oil with grated cheese, crushed olives and black pepper. This was followed by a table-sized antipasto and when I ordered for her, I had to use my discre- tion as she only knew Chef Boy-ar-dee. I thought she might like lasagna, sausages, saut6ed mush- rooms and string beans cooked in olive oil and gar- lic, and a garden salad with oil and lemon. I was right. Later, when it was time for dessert, I introduced her to a cannoli and espresso• By the time dinner had ended, I had a new convert to Italian food. I think the Chi- anti may have helped a little, too. My friends from Boston had a million questions to ask Maryann and she seemed to get along with them quite well. After we left the restaurant and one and all said good night to each other, I dropped my friend off at the Fontainebleau and headed back to my apart- ment hotel gathering my thoughts for a morning con- versation with Mom, Dad and Babbononno about mov- ing to Florida. At that point in time, no one in the im- mediate family lived more than ten miles away from their birth place. Even if you were over 21, but still single and obtained your own apartment, it was assumed that you ran away from home. How was I going to phrase my thoughts? GOD BLESS AMERICA Jackie Gleason and I didn't know what that might mean :::,:Tor evemtlJ as far as my career was con- cerned, but I wondered. I told Ralph that I didn't want to make any hasty decisions without speaking with my father and he understood. When I left him, I knew lhat I had a lot to think about. I was teaching in Boston, playing with three different bands and going to graduate school. I had planned to call home on the following n!ornlng, but it was .........  on Musschusetts , i :!:i :[" i OUt the Massachusetts Office a To.r00m Website at wwWllml-llflJon:.oom, • Socially Scene (Continued from Page 9) Grace & Tony White, the "PunkGrass" duo will be live with Vapors of Morphine on Wednesday, March 19 th at Atwood's in Cambridge. (Photo by job in the kitchen at Bos- ton's Logan Hilton Hotel• He quickly moved up from washing dishes to sous chef to executive sous chef as his talents were noticed by management and then was scooped up by the kitchen at DoubleTree Suites by Hilton that features Scullers. As a kid growing up in the home of his single mother, Steve learned to cook to help out -- learning quickly -- curried goat, curried crab, and dump- lings were some of the spe- cialties on the home menu. Now All has adapted some of those flavors to suit Ameri- • can pallets, and as a part of the hot and spicy shows in Scullers Jazz Club with Dr. Sagov, the food will be a great preparation for jazz. Nancy Ostrovsky is a pio- neer of performance paint- ing, an art form that has not yet been embraced by galler- ies and museums, but which has earned her a dedicated following nonetheless. Just as jazz musicians often go unrecognized, or at least play on without the distractions of million-dollar-record deals and radio playlists, Ostrovsky has forged her own path in art without worrying about who's hot and who's not in the greater art world. In- stead, she has spent her life processing her experiences, absorbing influences and putting it all back into her paintings, which have only grown more expressive and wise over the course of the past three decades. Scullers Jazz Club, is located at 400 Soldiers Field Road, AUston. Tickets can be purchased by logging on to or by calling 617-562-4131. Hear the PunkGrass Sound ... With Grace & Tony live and Vapors of Morphine on Wednesday, March 194 at Atwood's in Cambridge. One of Boston's hidden gems is a neighborhood res- taurant/bar and music room featuring local and touring musicians. Their bookings are diverse with a strong emphasis on Roots, Blues, Americana, Folk, and Rock, and this month they are bringing in hot-on-the-scene Grace & Tony along with Vapors of Morphine. When Grace and Tony White met they fell in love, and their music together foI- lowed afterwards. Exposed to music early in their lives by family (Grace's liked the southern styles from gospel all the way to rock, while Tony learned from his brother, John Paul White of The Civil Wars fame), Grace & Tony experimented with an unlikely blend of genres by mixing punk, folk, blue- grass, and Texas swing to create something new; "Punkgrass" was born. "Punkgrass is simply a natural fusion of my punk rock background and Grace's southern gospel and blue- grass upbringing," stated Tony. "It isn't forced; it's very organic and it stands out because it's a real fusion of what's new and old. We play whatever pops into our heads; from classic rock to southern gospel, we scratch every itch. It's dark yet happy; silly yet serious. Plus, it's a whole lot of fun to play•" Vapors of Morphine (for- merly known as Members of Morphine) have been per- forming tunes by the semi- nal, noire-inspired "Low Rock" outfit Morphine, add- ing originals and obscure covers of rock, African Blues and New Orleans street tunes, played with inven- tive arrangements and the unusual yet funky and pow- erful instrumentation of baritone saxophone, two string bass/slide guitar and drums. They leave audiences from Boston to Chile and New Orleans to the Nether- lands screaming for more. The band officially formed in 2009, when the group played Nel Nome Del Rock Festival in Palestrina, Italy, ten years after Morphine leader Mark Sandman died on the same stage. Since then the group has released one eponymous• CD, and played selective shows at home and abroad. Highlights have included The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Fes- tival (2012), New Orleans' Voodoo Experience (2011) and many more. These two up and coming acts are here for one night only in the Atwood Tavern, a performance not to be missed! Grace & Tony will hit the stage at 8:45 pm. and Vapors of Morphine will be live at 10:15 pm. Located at 877 Cambridge Street in Cambridge and can be reached at 617-864-2792, or visit to purchase tickets..