There’s a lot of music for families in Verona: In the schools, in the churches and in the summer concert series in the center of town and the Verona pool. But until recently, there hasn’t been a lot of live family music in our restaurants. That is changing.
Last month, the Trattoria Bella Gente turned over a corner of the restaurant to performers drawn largely from Verona’s middle school, high school and Our Lady of the Lake. They put a nominal price on a family-friendly meal and switched on the microphones. And the result was so successful that, on Sunday, April 22, Bella Gente will host its second open mic night for young performers.
It was very much a collaborative effort. Kim Cheung, the owner of Bella Gente, turned the role of emcee and booking agent over to Lori Lyon, a Verona resident who is a long-time patron. She brought in sound and keyboard support from RockTec School of Music and 17 mostly young performers. Bella Gente provided the menu and Hobcaw Cafe donated cake for the crowd.
“Lori and me have been talking about it for so long, but she made it happen,” says Cheung. “She deserves the credit.”
The adult performers included Joe Baum and Bruce Tyler from RockTec, as well as piano teacher Michael Palmieri. Among the younger performers were Ned Denton, Lucas Freschi, siblings Paul, Amanda and Eliana Salierno, Austin and Miranda Williams, Rachel Josephson, Carina and Kelsey Mitchell, Kim Sacchi and Jenni and Gale Lyon. They audience was a supportive crowd of mostly family and friends who had been let in on the secret night of entertainment, and the Rev. Robert (Mac) McLaughlin of St. Catherine of Siena in Cedar Grove, who said a blessing and prayer for the performers.
Cheung’s hope now is to continue the open mic night as a monthly event, and bring in other live entertainment on other nights of the week. “We might have jazz and blues on one night and classical musical on another,” he says. All of the performer spots for the April 22 event are already spoken for and Cheung and Lyon have begun to take names for the next event.
Trattoria Bella Gente is at 644 Bloomfield Avenue in the center of Verona. The next open mic night is Sunday, April 22 from 4 to 8 p.m. and Arminio Studios will be providing the sound. The fixed price menu is $20 for adults and $10 for kids and that includes tax, gratuity and, of course, the music. For reservations, call Lori Lyons at 973-856-0311.