Overheard at The Colony, at the time one of New York's most elegant restaurants, "You can't get a good tomato north of 28th Street!"
Jane Romano - actor, singer, comedienne, musical comedy coach - was born on 28th Street, the same neighborhood that spawned Ben Gazzara and Tony Franciosa. She was my friend and roommate.
Her mother Lena looked the typical Italian mama, white hair parted in the middle and pulled back in a bun. She was actually English, born on the island of Grenada with forbears named Bell and Ogilvie.
She was convinced that Jane and I were going to starve. (As a matter of fact, I don't know how we survived. Someone I had met in Key West sent me a case of champagne so we ate a lot of scrambled eggs that winter.)
Jane would go downtown to spend the weekends with her mother and returned each Sunday afternoon with two big shopping bags full of prosciutto and salami and cheeses and home-cooked dishes fit for Lucullus even if made from lamb neckbones!
Lena worked, cooked, at Trinacria, a store on Lexington Avenue and 29th, which catered to all the United Nations tribes, foods to be found no where else on this continent. It wasn't a restaurant but you could get a big hunk of Italian bread, cut lengthwise, filled with fried eggplant, veal and peppers, tiny meatballs, tomato sauce and cheese. Amazing that so much could fit. In truth, in deference to your sleeves, it was wise to eat leaning over the cutting board counter. For me she would fill a coffee paper cup from the big jug of Gallo Hearty Burgundy she kept under the counter for her own use.
If we ever decide to serve lunch at River House, that hearty sandwich will be on the list.