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||Piano rock, jazz rock, pop rock|
Although never released as a single, it has become one of Joel's most celebrated compositions among fans; it appears on most of his compilation albums and is a live favorite. 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, in the first person, a scene of two old classmates reuniting in an Italian restaurant. This segues into a triumphant and uptempo jazz-influenced section as the classmates catch up with each others' lives and begin to reminisce. Clarinet, trombone, tuba and saxophone solos then lead into a rock and roll section (which Joel calls "The Ballad of Brenda and Eddie"). This section tells a story, in the third person, about high school sweethearts (presumably the two classmates) who were an "it" couple, marry young and quickly divorce. The tempo then slows as the song transitions back to the style of the first section and the two part fondly, with one character remarking "I'll meet you anytime you want / At our Italian restaurant."
At 7 minutes and 37 seconds, it is the longest of Joel's rock music studio cuts, only surpassed by live recordings and five tracks from Joel's 2001 classical album Fantasies & Delusions. On May 6, 1977, before the song's official release, Joel premiered it in a performance at the 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.
- Billy Joel - lead and backing vocals, piano
- Richie Cannata - saxophone, flute, clarinet, tuba
- Dominic Cortese - accordion
- Steve Burgh - electric lead guitar
- Hugh McCracken - acoustic rhythm guitar
- Doug Stegmeyer - bass
- Liberty DeVitto - drums
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 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 red, a bottle of white, whatever kind of mood you're in tonight" 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.
Joel has named this song as his favorite song of his own.
The characters of Brenda and Eddie from this song became major characters in the Broadway production Movin' Out. The song tells the tale of the two through their love in high school, their marriage, and finally to their divorce shortly after. Movin' Out tells this story among others, although with a slight lyrical change, as the Brenda-and-Eddie story in Movin' Out takes place in 1965 instead of 1975.
- Joel, Billy (October 14, 1997), "Billy Joel Spoken Intro/Music Concepts", An Evening of Questions & Answers... & A Little Music, Columbia
- Doyle, Heather (February 26, 2014). "Christiano's, Once of Billy Joel Fame, Closes After 56 Years". Syosset Patch. Patch Media. Retrieved February 20, 2015.
- Floman, Scott. "Billy Joel Album Reviews". Archived from the original on August 7, 2011.
- Westwood One interview with Billy Joel
- "The Top 5 Billy Joel Songs, Ranked By Billy Joel". The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. November 19, 2014. Retrieved September 29, 2018 – via YouTube.
- Simonson, Robert (October 24, 2002). "Scenes from a New York Theatre: Tharp and Joel's Movin' Out Opens on Broadway, Oct. 24". Playbill.com. Retrieved August 27, 2016.