Nestled down the stairs in a little enclave on West 49th Street is a hidden gem, Ristorante Da Marino. Da Marino sports a bright yellow awning outside that reads “Piano Bar” and inside is fabulous Italian food, lots of fun music and some fabulous musicians. Headlining singer, Tom D’Angelo, spent a little time with me on a Saturday evening, giving me insight into his unique experiences as a singer at a Times Square restaurant.
D’Angelo is one of many musicians playing at the tiny, kitschy restaurant. It’s kitsch value comes from its walls -- painted heavily with Italian country scenes, Christmas lights put up in a garland near the bar, carved wooden chairs that look like they could serve as thrones for kings and queens, maracas near the piano that are used by guests to accompany songs, a fountain at the entrance and a virtual mini-forest of flowers and trees under and in front of the awning outside. “We get away with the kitschy-ness because the food is so good!” joked D’Angelo.
D’Angelo is the music manager at this raucous, festive establishment, and is the lead singer from Wednesday to Monday nights from 9pm to closing at about 12:30am. His band includes Nino Ingrati on piano, “Bongo Bruno” on congas and bongos and “Maestro Eduardo” on sax and clarinet. Even the musicians’ nicknames evoke a sort of Disney World type of atmosphere. Joseph Ivaska also sings and specializes in opera. Interestingly, the Naples native, chef “Lello,” also joins in on the singing. “’Lello’ started out as a waiter,” bragged D’Angelo, as if the gentleman was like a brother to him, “and now he is the chef here! AND, he sings!” Cool, huh?! A singing chef! Everyone is a character here at Da Marino.
Da Marino is not the only venue at which Mr. D’Angelo has performed. Tom is a New York cabaret veteran, having done two shows at Feinstein’s in 2009 and 2010,
shows at Metropolitan Room, Dana Lorge’s Wednesday Night at the Iguana and his own show at the Iguana that harkened back to old-fashioned TV variety shows called Post Time. He's so booked up with his regular gig at Da Marino, that he doesn’t even have time to perform in other venues. After appearing in multiple musicals in high school, he went on to perform professionally at private events in his youth, but now, at 46, he can’t even fit in a wedding.
But D’Angelo is thoroughly enjoying his “local star” status at the restaurant very much. “I get a lot of return visitors – both tourists and regulars. One family from New Hampshire came back for the whole weekend, every night, after seeing me perform on a Wednesday. They were here Thursday night, Friday night and Saturday!” One member of the family exclaimed, “We’re coming back because we had such a good time!” A handsome Italian-American and native New Yorker, D’Angelo explains, “We like to get the crowd involved. Songs like ‘That’s Amore’ and ‘Runaround Sue’ have people singing along. And then we also have the maracas!” Guests close to the piano are given maracas at their tables so that they can play along with the band. This masterful people person has a professional history of being a DJ, an MC, an event planner and even a band leader, so he really knows how to get the crowd going!
“We sometimes even let people get up and sing,” says the Bobby Darin look-alike. The night I was there, cabaret singer, Marieann Meringolo, was in attendance at a table of about 12. She got up and sang a couple of tunes for the patrons. Also, Dorothy Bishop, a Yale-trained professional cabaret and opera singer, was at the same table and sang some opera for the attentive audience. Everyone is important, it seems, at this establishment. Owner Pasquale Marino makes sure of it. “He's a great man and he wants people to have a good time,” says D’Angelo. People seemed to be bathing in the homey, warm, bright and slightly manic energy while enjoying their dinners. When patrons are not singing, D’Angelo renders such hits as “My Way,” “Delilah,” “Proud Mary,” “Fly Me To the Moon,” “All of Me,” “It’s Impossible,” “Quando, Quando” and “Mack the Knife.” “'Mack the Knife' has been my favorite song since I was a little kid! And, it still is,” reports D’Angelo. Carol Siwek, a regular at the restaurant, compared D’Angelo to Bobby Darin in looks and sound. “Oh my gosh, he sounds and looks just like him!” she exclaimed. He gets that a lot. And, he really loves to hear it, since Darin was his childhood idol. “I love Bobby Darin, but I have eclectic tastes. My CD changer in my car has Bobby Darin and Sinatra, but it also has Meat Loaf and Prince.”
Other musicians who play at Da Marino include Dennis Byrum on vocals and piano during the early evening hours, Nicky Stevens on piano and Australian, Sarah McLennan on vocals. Da Marino is located at 220 West 49th Street in New York, NY. The website for the restaurant is www.damarino.com and the telephone number is (212)541-6601. Although D’Angelo is off on Tuesdays, there is live music 7 nights a week. “I am so grateful that Ellen got me the job here!” exclaimed the crooner. Ellen Kot Resnick is a New York City cabaret aficionado and hosts parties for her friends regularly at Da Marino. “Tom is so wonderful! I love him!” says Ms. Kot Resnick. “You know,” D’Angelo concluded, “the feel here is a cross between New Year’s Eve and Las Vegas in the 1960s.” Indeed it is!
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