Scenes from an Italian Restaurant
|"Scenes from an Italian Restaurant"|
|Song by Billy Joel from the album The Stranger|
|Recorded||A & R Recording, Inc., New York City|
|The Stranger track listing|
Although never released as a single, it has become one of Joel's most celebrated compositions among fans, appearing on most of his compilation albums. In an interview, Joel cites the second side of The Beatles album Abbey Road as one of its primary musical influences. The song is effectively a medley of three distinct pieces fused into one: "Italian Restaurant" begins as a gentle, melodic piano ballad, depicting a scene of two old classmates reuniting in an Italian restaurant; this segues into a triumphant and uptempo jazz-influenced section featuring a clarinet and saxophone solo, followed by a rock and roll section (which Joel calls "The Ballad of Brenda and Eddie").
At 7 minutes and 37 seconds, it is the longest of Joel's studio cuts.
The song has been highly acclaimed in retrospective reviews, with Scott Floman, music critic for Goldmine magazine, describing the song as "an epic multi-sectioned masterpiece which starts as a slow smoky ballad, builds up to a jaunty piano rocker with a New Orleans flavor that also shows off Joel's knack for telling stories and creating rhymes, before finally returning to smoky ballad territory again."
After years of speculation about exactly which restaurant inspired the song, Joel stated in an interview included on The Stranger 30th anniversary edition DVD that the song was written about a restaurant located across from Carnegie Hall called Fontana di Trevi, which he frequented during a series of June 1977 concerts in Manhattan. The song's famous signature line: A bottle of white, a bottle of red, perhaps a bottle of rosé instead?" was actually spoken to him by a waiter at Fontana di Trevi while Joel ordered. He has further stated that the restaurant in the story has more than one real-life counterpart; however, Fontana di Trevi was on his mind while he was writing the song.
A slight lyrical change appears in the Broadway production Movin' Out (The Brenda-and-Eddie story takes place in 1965 instead of 1975.)
- Billy Joel (October 14, 1997), "Billy Joel Spoken Intro/Music Concepts", An Evening of Questions & Answers... & A Little Music (Columbia)
- Westwood One interview with Billy Joel