Nick Beni’s Plate

Last night one of my Dad’s good friend and customer’s daughter and her husband came in for dinner. She started reminiscing of the days at 273 Main Street. It made me look back at such a happy time. I do remember her Dad, Dick Freeman. Every Christmas my dad would bring us all shopping to pick out gifts for my mom. It was the same routine every Christmas. We would go to Up-To-Date where Mr. Forman would greet us and Amanda Gobbi would help us pick out a fancy dress for my mom. The last stop was to visit Dick Freeman who owned J. Arnold Wood, Ltd. It was fun there. I can still remember the laughter that those 2 men shared as my dad picked out the biggest and the gaudiest piece of jewelry. My dad always loved big and shiny!

Dick Freeman was one of our earliest customers. I didn’t realize that Dick’s and dad’s friendship went back before Coppola’s. Mr. Freeman actually got to know my dad when my dad was a chef at the historical Nick Beni’s in Mount Carmel Square. My father and Mr. Freeman got to be very good friends. When my dad was contemplating opening up a restaurant Mr. Freeman said to my father, “Joe, no matter where you go I will follow you.” And so it came to be that when my dad and his brothers opened up Coppola’s Restaurant on that day November 24, 1961, Mr. Freeman was one of their first customers. Mr. Freeman”s daughter, Jane told us that whenever my dad would go on vacation (vacation was going back to his hometown of Monte di Procida) Mr. Freeman would say “tell me what day you are going to be back because I want to be there the day you return.” And my dad would always surprise him with a new specialty dish that he brought back from Italy. After my dad died Mr. Freeman presented me with a plate from Nick Beni’s restaurant to commemorate his friendship with my dad so many years ago when he first met him as a chef at Nick Beni’s! Mr. Freeman has since passed away and I bet my dad welcomed him with a Coppola feast including all the specialties he is learning from his new adventure……….