Friday, August 26, 2011

Time Marches On II

I posted yesterday about Philadelphia, the birthplace of cheesesteaks. That got me in a nostalgic mood about south Philly, where I used to hang out on occasion. I worked with a guy who was born and raised there. He said people from his neighborhood either became cops, priests, or mafioso (he was a FBI agent).

One of the places I really enjoyed was an old neighborhood joint called the Triangle Tavern. It was named that because it's located at an intersection of three streets that form a - what else - triangle. 

From the outside it looks like a dive.

Actually, it resembles one on the inside as well. But people didn't come here for the decor. They came for the food, the atmosphere, and the entertainment, as the following reviews attest.
The place is your basic, adult, neighborhood South Philly corner bar. It has been there since 1933. It is old school. ...repeat old school. The staff is very friendly, well liked in the neighborhood and works hard to make you feel at home whether you're wearing work boots or wing-tips. The jukebox churns out  Dion, Temptations, Sinatra. Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Al Martino, Jerry Vale. If those names don't mean anything to you, you won't have a good time.

My wife and I have been going to this bar/restaurant in South Philly for over 35 years. The dining room is like sitting in someones 1950 kitchen. In fact, the tables and chairs are probably from 1950 or before. Nothing fancy, BUT the food, real authentic Italian food, is excellant. The antipaste is great, mussels (white) as an appetizer are excellant, and if you like calamari, then your are in for a real treat, because this is what they are known for. It's their secret recipe, since the 30's. The calamari, in a red sauce, are tender and delicious. You can either order a dish of calamari or order it over linguine. Their gnocchi are excellant also. Don't order any of the fried fishes, as they are quite ordinary. Nothing fancy about the service either. It's like eating at home.

This is a very authentic old italian restaurant. Good dishes like gnochi and meatballs, broccoli rabe, etc. Just plain old italian food...but good. This was an old Mafia bar...the bullet holes still remain in the bar.

The atmosphere is like you are having dinner with a large Italian family.

Eighty-two-year-old Tony Dell, of the Tony Dell Quartet, has performed at the bar for 24 years. Taking over for the infamous Dusty Gale, who died six years ago, Dell sings garbled covers of Eminem and the Doors with unabashed lewdness. His onstage hijinx include dry humping female customers and bastardizing the words to Frank Sinatra faves. "You wanna hear my version of New York, New York?" Dell asked the crowd of about 15 on a recent Saturday night. Dell then crooned, "Start spreadin' your legs." Dell's antics won the devotion of the bar's self-proclaimed "Spice Girls"--four elderly women, clad in polyester and gobs of make-up, who used to dance in front of the band and defend themselves from Dell's mock groping. While Dell always got a cheer when he unbuttoned his shirt, the crowd really gave it up for waitress Gen Balogna's renditions of Patsy Cline standards. Balogna, 48, is the loudest and perhaps the most deliberately foul-mouthed member of the Triangle waitstaff.
However, just as in the cheesesteak story, time has wrought change on the tavern. Up until the early 2000's it was owned and operated by the grandson of the original founder. Then he went through a messy divorce and had to sell the place. From what I can gather it's still a good place to hang out, but it's just not quite the same. And neither is the neighborhood.
The tavern's owner, Tony Fraietta, whose grandfather opened the place in 1933, said that to stem a loss he put at nearly $2,000 a week, he would keep it closed until he either finalized his divorce or found someone willing to buy it.

Even the Triangle Tavern's ultraloyal core customers admit that the casinos, which began opening in the mid-1970's, combined with the construction of new freeways and the dying off of the neighborhood's Italian old guard to leave this corner joint in a financial jam.

The neighborhood itself has ''changed from the old Italians to the Asians, Koreans, Vietnamese,'' said Sgt. Joe Gavula, one of several police officers from the Third District station who come to the Triangle to down a beer after work.
It looks like the Asians, Koreans, and Vietnamese don't drop in for a beer after work, don't eat gnocchi or calamari, and definitely aren't fans of Tony Dell.

Another little piece of our nation's character being washed away by the river of Time...

(Note: I usually provide links to the sources from where I get information. But in this case it was so fragmented that to do so would have been complicated and confusing. Needless to say, the Triangle Tavern doesn't have a web site. As for FaceBook - fuggedaboutit...).

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