Tag Archives: fiction

Luigi’s Prima Pasta & Pizza

12 Mar

(A menu inspired by the music of Louis Prima)

Chef Luigi

Chef Luigi

Welcome to Luigi’s Prima Pizza & Pasta where we serve the best in Italian-American cuisine. Come to our lively, festive restaurant where our beautiful hostess Felicia will show you to your table. Felicia, from Calabria, speaks no English, so Felicia…no capicia. But if you have any questions on the menu, Angelina, the waitress (at the pitzzeria) will be glad to answer them.

All dishes are prepared home-style and created from recipes evolved from Chef Luigi’s grandparents from the “old country.”

Here is a sample of Luigi’s award-winning menu.



Pasta fazool

Zooma Zooma Baccala (served  room temperature in a salad with hot cherry peppers)

Ol’ Fashion Salami

Brooklyn Pastrami


*”Cucuzza grows in Italy, they love it on the farm. Something like zucchini flavored with Italian charm”



Tomatoes and fresh Mozzarella*



Fresh Garlic



*Extra mozzarella, the way my cucuzza likes it, add $1.




Ravioli (Luigi’s specialty)*

*Comes with one meatball. Extras are $2 each.



Cutlets Parmigiana  (chicken, veal or pork)

Steak Pizzaiola

Chicken Cacciatore

Virginia Ham (on the bone)



Bananas (unless we run out and then, yes, we have no bananas)

Banana splits*


*A glass of ice water free with every banana split order.


Enjoy Yourself at Luigi’s!


Louis Prima’s Food  Discography


Banana Split for my Baby

Closest to the Bone

Enjoy Yourself

I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead (You Rascal, You)

My Cucuzza

Pennies From Heaven

Please Don’t Squeeza the Bananas

Yes, We Have No Bananas

Zooma Zooma

A China y Latina Christmas Carol

21 Dec


I woke with a start when I heard the honking of a car horn. It had been awhile since I’d heard car alarms. Maybe they got wise to the uselessness of them and didn’t bother making them anymore. Whatever, the one out my window was pretty loud.

I looked around the room. I didn’t know where I was or what time it could be. Outside the window, the sky was dark grey. How long had I been sleeping? I was confused.

Soon it came back to me. I remembered taking a nap after devouring three tacos; two lengua and one spicy chorizo. I washed them down with a big glass of cold horchata. The lunch had immediately made me drowsy and my belly wasn’t feeling quite right. Could the horchata been spiked with tequila or mescal? Was the lengua spoiled?

I sucked down a double espresso in hopes of reviving my energy. There was Christmas shopping to get done. There was baccala to soak. I had no time for a nap. But it was no use.

It was daytime when I lay down and now the sky was dark. How long was I out? I was still trying to get my bearings.

As the sleep slowly drifted from my eyes, I noticed a wisp of haze at the foot of my bed. I immediately panicked. Did I leave something on the stove? I sniffed. No, it wasn’t smoke. I sniffed again. There was the distinct odor of grease—one made by overcooked lard. It wasn’t an unpleasant smell—at least not to me. I was drawn to it.

I pulled myself closer to the wisp and it quickly enveloped me The haze was so thick I couldn’t see through it. What the hell? I had to still be dreaming. Either that or I was on some sort of drug trip. But I hadn’t taken any drugs. Just the tacos and horchata.

I don’t remember putting on a coat and hat. I don’t remember getting on the subway. But there I was at a place I hadn’t been in many years: a restaurant called Dinastia China or La Dinastia or derogatorily referred to by one particular hater as La Di Nasty. It was the first restaurant I dined in when I moved to New York in the final quarter of the previous century.

The wisp was by my side. I looked around me and noticed the hot dog joint on the corner of 72nd and Broadway and the subway station across the street. Beyond that it was too dark to see anything. A decorative Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was in the window of the restaurant. I peered through the glass. The counters with the stools in the front were exactly as they were decades ago. There were liquor bottles behind the counter and a cash register.

Rudolph was the lone window decoration.

Rudolph was the lone window decoration.

I pushed the door open. Nat King Cole was singing “The Christmas Song” from the restaurant’s loudspeakers as I entered. The front wall was decorated with autographed photos of celebrities I had never heard of. Next to them was a calendar. I glanced at it and then looked again. That date couldn’t be right. It was an ancient December date I was looking at. Not 2012. I was suddenly chilled.

I turned to the wisp by my side. It just hovered there. Doing nothing. Saying nothing. But I noticed now that the greasy lard odor was gone replaced by the enticing smell of grilled red meat. It moved forward and as if I were a hound on a scent, I followed.

There were a number of waiters in white button down shirts scurrying about. None of them stopped to ask me if I wanted a table. I hadn’t been to Dinastia China since the last century, but I remembered that as soon as I would enter, a waiter, menu in hand, would appear and immediately escort me to a table. Choice tables were always available. Reservations were never necessary. In fact, they were probably discouraged.

I slowly moved past the front area into the dining room. To my right was the commander’s station just as I remembered it. A cluttered desk with a big microphone facing toward the front entrance. One of the waiters was there now and barking orders into it. From the microphone, I knew the orders were relayed to the kitchen and the chef.

The Commander's Station

The Commander’s Station

“Ropa vieja, arroz amarillo, frijoles rojo, platano frito, wonton soup,” I heard him say.

I didn’t speak Spanish, but I was proficient in China y Latina restaurant speak and knew that the order was for shredded beef, yellow rice and red beans, fried plantains, and wonton soup. Despite the leaden effect of the tacos I feasted on earlier, my mouth, I realized, was beginning to water slightly. The order passed on to the kitchen was one of my favorites. It was what I ordered countless times at Dinastia.

There were a few solitary men and women sitting at tables in the expansive dining room. Their heads were down and there were huge platters of rice, beans, beef stew, fried chicken and other Dinastia specialties in front of them. None of them bothered to look up from their food as the wisp and I moved through the room.

The dining room that time forgot.

The dining room that time forgot.

I followed the wisp, despite it’s delicious smell, reluctantly now, sensing I should stay back. That what it was drawing me to I should not see. Frank Sinatra suddenly began to sing over the loudspeakers.

     Oh by gosh, by golly,

     It’s time for mistletoe and holly

A waiter juggling three plates; a big platter of chuletas asadas (center cut pork chops), separate bowls of black beans and yellow rice, and another plate cluttered with fried plantains whisked by me as if I did not exist. I turned and followed the waiter’s progress as he deposited the overflowing plates in front of an older, heavy-set woman, a copy of the New York Post spread out in front of her.

Tasty pheasants, Christmas presents
                                Countrysides covered in snow

 The wisp spun around and around me forcing me to look away from those juicy pork chops and to follow it forward. And then there at a table in the back, near the familiar rest rooms, was another lone diner. I hesitated. I could only see the back of the diners’ head. It was a man and he was hunched over his food. The wisp prodded me closer.

Oh by gosh, by jingle
               It’s time for carols and Kris Kringle

I looked at the table. It was a mess. A disgusting mess. There were pieces of yellow rice scattered on the glass top of the table along with a stray black bean or two, napkins were all over the place. Some of the broth from what was left of a bowl of wonton soup spilled onto the table.

"it was a disgusting mess"

“it was a disgusting mess”

I couldn’t look anymore. I wanted to turn away, but the wisp would not let me. The aroma of fresh baked baguettes that now came from it forced me closer.

There was more. I could see crumbs from the dried noodles. Just a few broken pieces remained in the wooden bowl. There was even a lone noodle that had drowned in the accompanying duck sauce.


And there were bones…fish bones. It was a king fish—serrucho—and it was pan fried. I could see the brown, burnt bits of garlic and the fried pepper strips. There were a few red blots of hot sauce on what was left of the fish. And then I noticed that some of the tender white flesh still clung to the big center bone. Who would waste such a treat?

merry greetings…

Again I tried to turn around and get out of there. I could see no more, but the wisp blocked my way. I smelled fried chicken and was paralyzed.

     From relatives you don’t know

  I looked again at the table and knew I had to see who would create such a mess. At first I noticed the fingers. They were slick with grease. And then I saw the distinctive swirl of light brown hair on top of his head. And I heard myself gasp.

I turned to the wisp in shock.”How can this be? So…young…yet…such a slob.”

The greasy fingers reached into the duck sauce and fished out the drowned noodle.

“Please,” I pleaded. “Please don’t let me look at anymore. I can’t watch. Don’t make me watch. Please…”

   Oh by gosh, by golly

    It’s time for mistletoe and holly

 I wasn’t sure if I was crying or not. If I was, the waiters didn’t care. They just continued to go about their business as if I was invisible.

Fancy ties and granny’s pies,

       An folks stealing a kiss or two

      As they whisper

 I shut my eyes tight. I wanted to cover my ears.

   “Merry Christmas”

   to you

When I opened my eyes, I was just outside the same restaurant. I looked around. There was no wisp by my side. I sniffed. No baguette, grilled beef, fried chicken, or lard grease odor anywhere. I heard a car honk. It wasn’t a car alarm. Just a normal impatient honk. I turned toward Broadway. The hot dog joint was there on the corner, but beyond the subway station I could see a gleaming glass high rise with a Bank of America branch and a Trader Joe’s market.

dinastia 002

I looked into the window of the restaurant. Rudolph was where it was before. The tacos and horchata drink I had for lunch seemed to have been properly digested. I was now ravenous.

I pushed through the doors and walked briskly through the bar area glancing quickly at the photos of the unknown celebrities but making sure not to look at the calendar.

As I approached the Commander’s Station, a waiter met me, laminated menu in hand. I looked past him at the mostly empty tables. There was a family sitting at one of the big, center table and a policeman and policewoman in uniform at another. The other tables were empty.

“Table?” the waiter asked me.

I looked at him. He looked at me. I nodded.

“Just one?”

“Just one,” I said and he led me to a table.

Rod Stewart was singing a cover of the great Charles Brown’s “Merry Christmas Baby,” as I sat.



After devouring a meal of wonton soup, accompanied by dried noodles and duck sauce, followed by the serrucho ajillo (king fish with garlic and peppers), yellow rice and black beans, I wiped my fingers clean.

y Latina

y Latina

“Coffee?”my waiter asked.

“No, just the check,” I said.

A few moments later he returned with the check and a rolled up magazine, or something like that.

“What’s this?” I asked as I opened it up. It was a calendar with the restaurant’s name on it. I glanced at the date.

I looked up at him. “2013,” he said with a knowing smile.

As I gathered my belongings and headed out with the calendar in hand, he turned to me as he wiped the table clean. “And I see you next year.”

“Yes,” I said with a nod. “You will.”

dinastia 024

A Night of Good Humor

13 Jun

The bells woke up me up.  I could hear them from my open window coming from the street below. I was trying to sleep away the hot day.  I forced myself out of bed. I had to get downstairs fast. I had to get to the bells.

I put on a dirty, ripped tee shirt and slid on my flip flops. I rushed out the door and started down the four flights to the street.

Mrs. Robbins was trudging up the steps. She was in a wrinkled  house dress, holding an ice cream bar in one hand that was melting rapidly.

“You better hurry,” she said. “He’s selling out fast.” As she spoke she tried to catch the red cookie crumbs that were falling from the ice cream bar.

“You got strawberry shortcake?” I said.

“Always,” she replied. “And lucky I got there when I did. Those kids behind me are gonna be disappointed if they want their strawberry shortcake. And I know that geezer Baskin will blame me for eating the last one. Too bad, I say. Let him eat a toasted almond for a change. Nothing wrong with toasted almond. Or chocolate éclair. Now that’s a very fine ice cream bar.”

Mrs. Robbins could go on, but I had no time to listen. I ran down the stairs and out into the dusk. It was still brutally hot. I heard the bells, but they were fading. I wasn’t sure which direction to run.

A truck was slowly moving down the street and then stopped right in front of where I was standing. A man poked his head out. “I got ice cream here,” he said.

I stared at the rainbow colored ice cream cone painted on the side of the truck. “You want a Salty Pimp?” the man asked me, “or how about a Bea Arthur?”

I didn’t know what to say. And there were no bells.

Where you can get a “salty pimp.”

“Okay, maybe next time,” the man said as he drove the truck away.

I listened for the bells again. I could hear them faintly, but soon they were drowned out by something else. That song. It was coming from that other ice cream truck. I covered my ears.  Stop it, I cried to myself. I can’t stand it!

The loud truck parked in front of me. The music blasted. The ice cream head smiled cruelly at me; the source of so many nightmares.

The stuff nightmares are made of.

I ran from it. Ran down the street as far away from the truck as I could get. The song faded. I turned down an alley. There it was. The old white truck. And I could hear the bells.

My flops flipped as I ran faster. I could see the man in the white suit and white hat by the side of the truck. There was a line of boys and girls waiting. I needed to get on that line. I shoved my hands into my pockets. And then I froze. “No,” I cried. “No! No! No!”

I forgot to take two bits for the ice cream. I sat down on a stoop and buried my head in my hands.

“What’s the matter, kid,” a gravely-voiced man asked me. “We all have bad days.”

I looked up. It was Carvel. The last guy I wanted to see.

“Forgot something, did ya?”

I didn’t want to hear it from him. Taunting me with his toasted coconut marshmallow sundae; his brown betty’s. Knowing how loyal I am to the other guy. That I would never betray him.”

Everybody likes ice cream

“Listen, kid, I remember that solid you did for me?”

“What?” I scowled. “What solid?”

“The time you helped me with the dry ice.”

I nodded. Yeah, I remembered. His truck broke down and I helped get his boxes of dry ice to his new store before all his ice cream melted.

“I never forget a solid,” he said.

He reached into his pocket, pulled out a fifty cent piece and flipped it to me. “Go on now. Go get yourself an ice cream.

I looked at the coin and quickly ran down the street. The line of children was gone. The man in the white suit and hat was getting into the passenger seat of his truck. He was leaving, but before he did, I could hear him clang the bells.

I ran right up to him. My face was red, dripping with sweat. He smiled at me. “Just in time, sonny,” he said and then slowly climbed out. “Can’t say there is much left back there though. Not on a hot one like this.”

I walked with him to the side of the truck. He opened the freezer. A wisp of fog drifted from the open door. He reached in. “Hmmm, I thought I had some left,” he said as his hand searched the freezer.

My face contorted. The tears were close. I tried to control them from coming.

“Oh…wait…” He smiled again. “One more. But you’ll have to take whatever it is.”

“I’ll take it,” I said, nodding eagerly. “I don’t care.”

He pulled out the last remaining ice cream bar. My eyes opened wide. So did my mouth. The ice cream was wrapped in blue paper. I knew what it was. The one with the chocolate candy in the center. God is good, I thought.

“Well, well, from that look on your face, I guess it’s your lucky day, sonny boy,” he said.

I gave him the fifty cent piece. He slid it into his changer and then clicked out two dimes for me. I waited a moment.

He looked at me and shrugged. “Sorry, sonny, you ever hear of inflation? The cost of ice cream is going up. Get used to it.”

I didn’t know what he was talking about and really didn’t care. I pocketed the twenty cents and moved away from the truck with my ice cream.

He got back in, started the truck up, and as he drove away, pulled the string to the bells a few times.

I returned to the stoop where I had run into Carvel and sat down. I unwrapped the ice cream and slowly, methodically, started to work on the chocolate icing.

A thing of beauty.

The vanilla ice cream was revealed. I wanted to make it last before I got to the candy, but in the heat, I had to work faster than I liked. The tip of chocolate candy emerged. And then more until the chocolate candy center was totally exposed, clinging fragilely to the stick.


I started to lick it. I knew I had to be careful here. That it was delicate. But I was weak. I couldn’t resist. I took a bite, savoring the cold, rich chocolate. I wanted more and took another, bigger bite. Just as I did, the candy crumbled, pulling away from the stick. I frantically tried to catch it with my hand but only was able to rescue a tiny portion. The rest splattered on the dirty pavement.

I looked down at the glob of chocolate. An army of ants were on it immediately. I still held the stick. I licked it, making sure I cleaned whatever chocolate remained. I stood up, tossed the stick into the garbage.

The sun had gone down but my room was still stifling when I returned. I got back into bed. Tomorrow, they said, was going to be even hotter. I closed my eyes.  I didn’t care. As long as I heard the bells.

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