Friday, October 3, 2014.
In The Dark At Two Tonys.
How did it happen that I have become a regular part of Angela Hill’s show every Friday after my own program is over? Today we talked about Oktoberfest celebrations. I found nine of them around town, more than I can remember in any previous year. The alcoholic offerings–something else I usually supply–are shots of Barenjager, an old liqueur made from honey. I have a bottle of the stuff sitting on my shelf for at least twenty years. It seems largely to have evaporated, but adding a little vodka to it returns it to balance. It’s a mellow variation on schnapps.
After all this plays out, Mary Ann turns up by surprise on the South Shore. She announces that she can be wooed into having dinner. I am already thinking about that when she calls. My brain targets the Lakeview restaurant community. By coincidence, MA is hanging out at II Tony’s (pronounced “two Tonys”) on the border between Lakeview and West End. I tell her to stay right there. II Tony’s suits my tastes at that moment just fine.
It has been a downright chilly week, and the temperatures outside are just about perfect for sitting at one ofthe tables on the restaurant’s front apron. (MA can never be forced indoors if a tolerable table is outside.) We start with friend artichoke hearts, served with an interesting of aioli of mayonnaise and horseradish.
The soup of the day is shrimp bisque with a bit of tomato added to what is otherwise a cream soup. This is spectacularly good. On their way out, several other customers give that same praise to the soup, without my having to ask.
One of these is Bob O’Neill, the longtime (and long retired) honcho of the advertising side of the Times-Picayune. Bob is a prime example of my theory that only five hundred people live in the New Orleans area. He and I used to battle one another when I was in the typesetting business in the 1970s. The issues were placement of the ads, fine print about acceptable sizes, and other matters that now seem impossibly trivial. The ad client was the Sleep Factory, owned by Oliver Kluna, who would become the best man at my wedding, and with his wife the godparents of my son Jude. Nowadays–and totally by eerie coincidence–Bob lives across the street from Oliver. And now here he is, dining in the same restaurant we are. Five hundred people. That’s it.
The entrees are a big, beautiful soft-shell crab for me, and a salad topped with panned chicken for MA.
As the sun goes down, more people we know exit the restaurant. A lady named Cindy has several connections with us back in the days when our kids were little. Jude attended a birthday party at her house, starring Cowboy Bob. Jude thought Cowboy Bob was uproariously funny. Twenty years later, Cowboy Bob often calls my radio show, as he has for most of its duration. Cindy then tells us that a mutual friend of ours–my former partner in the typesetting business–has just been diagnosed with what looks like a fatal illness.
Then three women exit. Mary Ann recognizes one of them, and before a minute has elapsed we have four people chatting about the days when they all went to the same grammar school and lived within a few blocks of one another. In Kenner–not even in the present neighborhood. Who knew that II Tonys is such an active nexus!
Tony Montalbano is the second of the two Tonys. The first, his father, passed away a few years ago. His son is not quite old enough to figure into the business, but there are still two Tonys. He points with pride to an old mini kids’ ride–a boat which, when you drop fifty cents into the slot, rocks back and forth as if it were on the nearby lake waves.