This is the story of Papa Sermolino, his warm-hearted and amusing Italian-American family, and Papa's renowned restaurant, Gonfarone's for twenty-five years a landmark on West Eight Street, in Greenwich Village.
As told by his daughter, who was mixing Manhattans and Martinis by the time she was six, the book gives a gay slice of life from an era when enjoying life was easy.
Anacleto and Vittoria Sermolino landed, streerage, in New York City in 1892, straight from Vigevano on the Lombardy plain.
Papa, delivering a demijohn of wine to Madama Gonfarone's restaurant on his first job in his adopted country, was promptly hired by that good lady as a porter.
In eight years he was owner of Gofarone's.
Papa had a genius for the restaurant business.
He knew what his customers liked and how to give it to them.
Good food, good wine, and music with the meals could be had for fifty cents.
The sopranos generally fell in love with Papa, who was very much a ladies' man, but Mama handled the cash register.
Until the coming of prohibition, when Papa sold out in disgust, Gongarone's was a New York institution.
Maria's nostalgic account of a happy era of New York life provides the kind of relaxed entertainment that makes today's tensions quickly fade away.