By Brian | August 8, 2008 | Share on Facebook
There was a fantastic Italian restaurant on 57th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues in Manhattan called La Fontana di Trevi (i.e., “The Trevi Fountain”). I went there many times for business lunches when I worked for Accenture on 54th Street and 6th Avenue, and my wife and I would go there for dinner frequently when we lived on 56th Street and Broadway. The place was across the street from Carnegie Hall, the Russian Tea Room, several retail piano stores (e.g., Yamaha), and Sony’s New York offices.
The wait staff at Fontana di Trevi would always claim that a) they served the best Caesar salad in New York, and b) the restaurant was the inspiration for Billy Joel’s “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.” I definitely believed them about the Caesar Salad (made table-side and with a touch of Worcestershire sauce, the closing of this restaurant was a big blow to Caesar Salads everywhere…), but I was always a bit suspect about the Billy Joel thing.
Granted, the Sony offices and the piano stores were across the street, so it made sense that Billy Joel would spend a lot of time in the area. I always thought it could be true, but I never really heard confirmation of it. Also, I kind of suspected that the restaurant in question would be in Little Italy, since Joel has talked and written about that part of Manhattan frequently (e.g., “Big Man on Mulberry Street.”)
Well, the newly redesigned BillyJoel.com contains a new video section, and the top video on the list right now is a retrospective of The Stranger album, which is celebrating it’s 30th anniversary this year. In the video, Joel confirms that Fontana di Trevi is truly the location he was writing about. Apparently, when people were lined up around Carnegie Hall to see Joel’s 1975 concert there, the owner of Fontana di Trevi recognized him from the concert poster, and from then on would get him and his band a good table whenever they wanted one. In the video, Joel says:
There’s a restaurant right across the street from Carnegie Hall – it’s not there anymore – called Fontana di Trevi, but sometimes you’d have a hard time getting a table, and the owner of the restaurant sees a line going around the block, and there’s a poster of me in front of Carnegie Hall. And he was looking at the poster and he looks at me and goes, “Hey – you’re datta guy!” and from then on, I was always able to get a good spot. People wonder where “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” was, well that was the place.
The picture above is a screen shot from the video, and I recognize it as having been taken in the restaurant.
Another one of life’s little mysteries revealed…