Gosh I almost forgot to tell you about Coppola’s Restaurant and President Richard Nixon. It all goes back a beautiful day in October 1971. President Nixon’s younger brother Ed came to a luncheon to address Dutchess County Federation of Women’s Republican Clubs at our restaurant, Coppola’s on 273 Main Street. It was a crazy day in Poughkeepsie! Not only was Coppola’s Restaurant surrounded by protesters but also the campaign headquarters on New Market Street, outside Coppola’s students were dressed like “grim reapers” to dramatize their protest of the war in Indochina. The leaflets they handed out were titled “Six Million Victims.” One student was even bound to a cross. It was quite a scene as Ed Nixon left the restaurant under guard with police escorts to a limousine. Yes, Coppola’s Restaurant shared a headline with Nixon the next day in the Poughkeepsie Journal. Despite all the protests in Dutchess County Nixon went on the win a second term of the Presidency.
July 6,1983 I waddled over to Coppola’s Restaurant for a chance to meet Pres. Richard Nixon. This time instead of his little brother Ed, Pres. visited Dutchess County. He was warmly greeted as he toured Franklin D. Roosevelt home and library. He later went on to have lunch at Coppola’s Restaurant. I wasn’t going to miss the chance to meet the President. I don’t know what I was thinking but in July 1983, I was pregnant with my son Joe and I wasn’t hiding. There I was front and center. I mean how can anyone not notice me as I stood there waiting for a chance to shake hands with Pres. Nixon. Of course, he right away noticed!!(Really how can you notice anyone else since I took up all the space.) I didn’t even have to ask as I stood there proudly holding a pen. The President wondered if I knew what the sex of the baby as he addressed the autograph to Baby Morgan, Best Wishes from Richard Nixon.
But that didn’t end our dealings with the Nixon Presidency. Later on that year, December 28, 1983, G. Gordon Liddy, (he served on the Nixon administration involved in the White House “plumbers’ unit to control the leaks from the White House), came to have dinner at Coppola’s Restaurant, 825 Main Street. As he sat at table 51 (a quiet table for 2) he enjoyed a delicious meal and gladly autographed a menu.
As you can see…I have been an avid collector of autographs through the years. Hahaha… and also not at all abashed to waddle to all these 1983 events….
With Charlie Sheen headlining all news stories lately I thought of the day his dad, Martin Sheen came for dinner at our restaurant. It was May 27, 1983. I was expecting my first born son and was quite a spectacle. When I think back I don’t know what I was thinking that instead hiding out at home I was right in the middle of everything and in the way of everybody.
James Cagney was a regular at the restaurant, arranging a dinner party with Martin Sheen as a guest. Of course I was taking up space in the foyer and I couldn’t help but get Martin Sheen’s attention. He asked when the baby was due and hoped that I could wait till August 3rd, his birthday. I exclaimed that I didn’t think I could last that long but would be honored if my baby could share his birthday. Little did I know I was pretty close to that date when I had Joe. Joe was born July 25th.
While waiting for the rest of the dinner party to show up some of the guests were at the bar along with Martin Sheen. While everyone was enjoying cocktails Mr. Sheen suddenly got up off the barstool and told them he had to do an errand. He came up to me and asked where the nearest church was. I directed him to Holy Trinity and he came back later to join the dinner party. I thought how interesting that he provided no explanation but just excused himself making going to church a priority. Remind me to tell you about James Cagney next…
On the covers of the original menus that we used for many years had biographical trivia of some of the prominent Italian people that made contributions to America. One of them was Arturo Toscanini. We listed him as the manager of The Metropolitan Opera House. Well on July 3, 1977 his grandson Walfredo Toscanini came in for lunch. Reading the error on our menu he wrote a long explanation in Italian on one of our placemats of the correction that needed to be made about his grandfather Arturo Toscanini (March 25, 1867 – January 16, 1957). In fact he further explained that Arturo was Direttore Artistico (artistic manager, conductor) of the Metropolitan Opera House and the Direttore (manager) was another Italian Giulio Gatti-Casazza (February 3, 1869 – September 2, 1940)
Walfredo also added that he and his wife were passing through Poughkeepsie and wanted to stop and eat a good meal. They were thoroughly satisfied with their meal of Stuffed Shrimp and Shrimp in a Marsala wine sauce. And he finished his letter with saying that if we wanted to open up a restaurant in New Rochelle to call him because he would gladly help us.
Here’s a little background information on Walfredo Toscanini: Walfredo Toscanini was born in Milano, Italy and moved to the United States with his family in 1938. He attended most of the NBC Orchestra concerts conducted by his grandfather, Arturo Toscanini, and traveled across the USA with the 1950 Tour. He graduated from Yale College in 1952, and received a Master of Architecture from Yale University in 1955. In the private practice of architecture, Mr. Toscanini was particularly interested in spaces for the performing arts and acoustics. He worked for the Facilities Development Corporation of New York State administering the program for Group Homes for the Developmentally Disabled, and for the N.Y.S. Urban Development Corporation in preserving and enhancing the economic base of the state. He served as City Councilman in the City of New Rochelle from 1973 to 1977 and has been active in the Democratic Party in Westchester County.
Stay tuned for some more interesting stories of people that we have met at Coppola’s Restaurant during our 50 years in business. Hmmmm… I wonder… a restaurant in New Rochelle…
Aahh the first day of spring brings us all the excitement of new and fresh…………We are starting all our herbs for our herb garden. Basil, parsley, arrugula,etc. I hope our sage and rosemary come back. The mint is starting to peek through and will soon overtake the garden if we let it. Fresh herbs from the garden just make all of our entrees just that much tastier. Store bought is good but it just isn’t the same as from the garden. Did you ever notice that the store bought basil is so bland? You need a whole handful to get just a faint aroma from them. A basil leaf from your own garden is all that it takes to make a favorite dish “pop with flavor”. Until our garden is flourishing may you have a Bella Vita Gustosa!
Basil, basilico or as they say in napolitana – b(v)asinicola. Well, in napolitana I was never sure if they say it with a v or a b. I love this herb! It is considered the “king of herbs” by cooking authors. The tender light green silky leaves taste like anise. It has a strong pungent sweet aroma. Adding it to a tomato and mozzarella brings the salad to life. Tomato sauce without basil is like a book with blank pages. Ce bisogno basilico per una vita gustosa!!
We can’t think of a more approriate title for our restaurants blog. La Vita Gustosa means a tasty life in Italian. Food and living go hand in hand. Can anyone honestly remember a celebration that did not involve food? If you were brought up in an Italian family then there is no way that special occasion did not revolve around food. Close your eyes and think of a pleasant memory.
Let me share with you one of my pleasant memories…
Waking up on a Sunday morning hearing my mother singing along to the songs on the Italian radio station. And smelling the most delicious aromas coming from the kitchen. No not bacon! But tomato sauce simmering on the stove. A perfect blend of tomatoes, onions, garlic and basil. I hear the crackling and spattering of frying. No not bacon! Meatballs! And thats my special memory. A busy kitchen full of music, aromas, and love.