Friday, March 27, 2015

Joe Peppy, the Singing Bartender

You never know what's going to send my mind spinning into an obsessive flurry of research down a rabbit hole. Like right here, see. This is an advertisement for the rather clunkily-named Mac Mascioli's Dolphins Locker in Hialeah, taken from the May 2, 1970 edition of the Miami News.

Looks like an interesting enough place. I wouldn't mind going back in time and checking it out. Remind me to do so sometime next week when I find the time. But what interests me most about this ad is the spectre raised of one Joe Peppy, Dade County's greatest singing bartender."

And so it was, my curiosity piqued, that I've spent the last hour combing the interwebs for more information about Mr. Peppy. And found, exactly, nothing. You'd think being the greatest singing bartender in Dade County would have warranted some kind of write-up somewhere, sometime, that I could find online. But no. Nothing.

Well, hang on, not exactly nothing: I did find this link wherein a bunch of oldsters are sitting around a forum talking about the good old days in Hialeah. And lo and behold, we find one random commenter making this random comment:

My favorite Italian restaurant in the 80s was the one in The Circle in Miami Springs named "Joe Peppy's." The owner/chef was a friendly, heavy-set man who used to come out of the kitchen every half hour to say hi to the patrons and ask them how they liked the food. He made great mussels marinara.

This sounds like it could, just possibly, be our man.

I'm tempted to spout with wrath like the detective in Barton Fink who, after all Barton can remember about Mad Man Mundt is that "he liked Jack Oakie pictures," and rant, "Usually we say 'anything you can recall might be helpful, but I'll be honest with you, that is not helpful." But I'll take what I can get. So the singing bartender went on to open his own joint, let's postulate, and he made great mussels marinara. Okay. But did he sing?

Even in a restaurant operating under his own name, that Peppy still was adept at staying under the radar, it seems. There is only one other online reference I can find to indicate that this Joe Peppy's restaurant ever existed. It is found here on a foodie forum where someone called "MiamiDon" drops this datum:

I used to order a dish called "Veal Dante" at Joe Peppy's Italian Garden in Miami Springs over twenty-five years ago. It was presented as a golden, breaded sphere about four inches in diameter, wrapped in foil. The waiter would peel back the foil, and cut it open, and ladle on a Marsala sauce. The bulk of it was mostly thinly sliced veal, but there were mushrooms, peas and cherry tomatoes, too. Evidently the lightly breaded sphere was fried, and then wrapped in foil and baked. I can't for the life of me figure out how they made it hold together for the first step.

I have found a variety of "veal dante" dishes online, but none that seem to match my recollection. Unfortunately, the restaurant closed.

Trying another approach, I researched Mac Mascioli's Dolphins Locker and found... nothing. Nothing but the same lone advertisement from a 1970 newspaper.

I'm leaving this casefile open (but of course, they all are open forever, really, aren't they?) If you know anything about this singing bartender, do file a report.


  1. Joe Peppy was also the chief at the Villanova restaurant which was on 79th street. One of the smoothest voices you'll ever hear! You can read more about him and his later endeavor, the Italian Gardens in Miami Springs, in a Sports Illustrated article on Dan Marino in the early 80's. In fact there are quite a few pictures of Marino and Don Strock eating at the Springs restaurant! When Joe wasn't cooking, he'd be singing to the patrons, accompanied by a couple strolling guitarists. It was quite a treat!

  2. He did and does exist.
    And that was our restaurant from 1979 to 1989