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|
|Genre||Jazz rock Progressive Rock|
|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 and a live favourite. 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, trombone, tuba 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, only surpassed by live recordings.
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."
On May 6, 1977, before the song's official release, Joel premiered it in a performance at C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University. Joel dedicated that performance to Christiano's, a restaurant in the nearby hamlet of Syosset, which operated until February 2014. Joel admitted, years later, that the shout out to the local restaurant was similar to shouting out "Yankees" at a Manhattan concert.
After years of speculation about exactly which restaurant inspired the song, Joel stated in an interview included on 2008's The Stranger 30th Anniversary Edition DVD that the song was written about Fontana di Trevi, a restaurant across from Carnegie Hall, which he frequented during a series of June 1977 concerts. The song's 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, with the Brenda-and-Eddie story taking 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)
- Heather Doyle (2014-02-26). "Christiano’s, Once of Billy Joel Fame, Closes After 56 Years". Syosset Patch (Patch Media). Retrieved 2015-02-20.
- Westwood One interview with Billy Joel