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Billy Joel's 'Scenes From an Italian Restaurant" Began Here

Frank Mastropolo

New York Groove: An Inside Look at the Stars, Shows, and Songs That Make NYC Rock Book Excerpt

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Legacy Recordings

One of Billy Joel’s most requested songs is “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant,” from his 1977 album The Stranger. The medley of three individual pieces began as one, “The Ballad of Brenda and Eddie.”

“Then I wrote the other pieces either prior to that or after that,” Joel explained in The Republican. “It was kind of based on side two of Abbey Road. I think the Beatles all came in with individual song fragments and George Martin helped them sew it all together. 

“It’s looked on now as a work of genius but I said, ‘I know what happened. They didn’t finish the songs, they didn’t feel like it, and George Martin said, “Why don’t we do this?” and then they called it “Golden Slumbers.”’ That’s pretty much what I was going for, a long extended series of fragments sewn together to tell a story.”

"Scenes From an Italian Restaurant" by Billy Joel

Joel revealed on The Stranger 30th Anniversary Legacy Edition DVD that Fontana di Trevi, across the street from Carnegie Hall, was his inspiration for “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant.” The song’s signature line, however, originated at Benito II at 163 Mulberry Street. A waiter at the Little Italy restaurant asked, “A bottle of white? A bottle of red? Perhaps a bottle of rosé instead?” Joel liked its sound and used the line to open the song.

The building that housed Fontana di Trevi was demolished by May 2007 for the construction of One57, a 75-story supertall skyscraper. The Benito II site is now home of the La Bella Vita restaurant.

Mastropolo is the author of New York Groove: An Inside Look at the Stars, Shows, and Songs That Make NYC Rock and Fillmore East: The Venue That Changed Rock Music Forever.

New York Groove: An Inside Look at the Stars, Shows, and Songs That Make NYC Rock

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Mastropolo is the author of Fillmore East: The Venue That Changed Rock Music Forever and New York Groove: An Inside Look at the Stars, Shows, and Songs That Make New York Rock, selected by Best Classic Bands as two of the Best Music Books of 2021 and 2022. He is also the author of the What's Your Rock IQ? Trivia Quiz Book series; Ghost Signs: Clues to Downtown New York's Past, winner of the 2021 Independent Publishers Book Award; and Ghost Signs 2: Clues to Uptown New York's Past. Mastropolo is a photographer, and former ABC News 20/20 producer, winner of the Alfred I. DuPont–Columbia University silver baton. His photography is featured in the Bill Graham Rock & Roll Revolution exhibition.

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