We’ve all had it happen to us. You walk into an Italian restaurant, somewhere in America, and the place is bustling. Waiters are carrying trays of steaks, pasta, chops. Bartenders are mixing up classic drinks. Women have their bright red lipstick on. And resounding from the ceiling, good old blue eyes is crooning. You think, “now we're in for a good time, Sinatra is in the house.”
Music doesn't seem that crucial to the success of restaurants in Italy. It’s a place to eat, to talk to friends, hear one another, even. But it’s not a scene you see that often in Italy, using music to recast nostalgia as cutting edge.
Look, I have no ax to grind with Frank. Much of his music was lovely; his voice was one in a million. The songs are energetic and snappy; I understand why operators like to play his music in their establishments. After the 456th time of listening to “My Way” or “New York, New York” or “That’s Life”, I’d just like to propose that we give Frank, at least some of his songs, a rest. But I know that probably isn’t going to happen.
My mom tells me a story, about when she and my dad were in a nightclub in Palm Springs, my old hometown. She asked the waiter if the band would play the love theme from the Godfather. In Hollywood it was called, “Speak Softly Love.” In Sicily it's “Brucia la Terra.” (Yeah, Hollywood wins).
All this to say there’s a time and a place for everything. But in today’s world, nostalgia, like garlic, can be over used. And Sinatra and his music have been so utilized, propping up pasta and all kinds of alleged Italian dishes.
What would be really hip and cool would be if folks started playing some of Sinatra’s lesser-known music. It would be like finding Aglianico in abandoned fields, or gold bracelets in Etruscan caves. Something like “Don'cha Go 'way Mad,” “Tangerine,” or maybe “I will drink the wine.”
Are we beginning to see the light?