Savarino's Cucina may be a family affair—Corrado Savarino's wife Maria, father Pietro, daughter Francesca and son Carmelo all work there—but it's the extended family that makes the Hillsboro Village eatery unique. Savarino's has the vibe of a Brooklyn social club, where a coterie of Nashville Italians and Italian food fanatics while away hours gabbing, laughing, reminiscing and interrupting each other with a Yankee intensity that might astound lifelong Southerners.
The most hallowed regulars have been immortalized with sandwiches named for them, sort of a Nashville Italian Hall of Fame. The Scene sat and broke bread with five of the enshrined—retired recording engineer/restaurateur Mike Figlio, Oh Boy Records head Al Bunetta, musician/producer Nick Pellegrino, rock legend Felix Cavaliere (of The Rascals) and health care exec Doug Shaugnesso. (Responding to the suspicion that Doug's real name is "Shaugnessy," Corrado assures us that "he comes from the northernmost part of Italy.")
We can't promise all the quotes are correctly attributed—the chatter reaches decibel levels comparable to the tarmac at LaGuardia—but we did our best. Pull up a chair and join us.
Scene: So whose sandwich is the best?
Doug: Mine. The Shaugnesso. Honestly. (To Corrado) Which sells more? The Shaugnesso, right?
Corrado: The No. 1 Sandwich is the Ed. That's the one that sells the most.
Doug: It is not! Why do you lie? Why?
Francesca (Corrado's daughter): The biggest seller is the Nick.
Al: The Al Bunetta.
Doug: The Nick sells more than anybody?
Doug: How in the hell is Pellegrino selling more?
Nick: I sell more than anybody.
Doug (quoting The Godfather Part II): "Michael, we're bigger than U.S. Steel!"
Al: You know what Paramount paid for Godfather?
Doug: Pennies, wasn't it?
Al: A million dollars. Yeah, pennies. Lots and lots of pennies.
Nick: You know, Joe Pagetta will be very upset if there are any wiseguy references in this article.
Scene: We're going to print that he wasn't available because he's in the witness protection program.
Corrado: Remember Richelieu in Brooklyn? Did you ever go there?
Corrado: Richelieu. On 86th and 20th, right next door to the Benson Theater.
Nick: It was a restaurant?
Corrado: A Jewish deli.
Nick: I remember. I didn't know that was the name of it.
Corrado: Yeah, it's, like, some French guy. I dunno.
Doug: Richelieu? As in Cardinal Richelieu?
Nick: As in, like, a very important French guy?
Corrado: Yeah! A French guy!
Doug: I thought he was saying "Richard Lewis."
Nick: I did too!
Doug: Goddamn, you need a translator in here anymore.
Scene: So how did the sandwiches come about?
Nick: When I was a kid we used to eat this dish—chicken, peppers and sausage broken up in it. It was called Scah-pa-diel. So he kind of did that and threw red wine on it.
Nick: (to Corrado) How do you you spell Scah-pa-diel? Scarpiello, right?
Corrado: Roughly, it's going to be S-C-A-...
Greg, another regular: Wouldn't it be S-C-I-A?
Nick: I'll write it down for you. Gotta pen?
Doug: This is why Italians have never been successful in this world.
Greg: This is why I thank God I have Italian-Jewish ancestry.
Corrado: It's not easy writing in Sicilian, you know what I mean?
Nick: (showing a pad of paper with "chicken scarpiello" on it) There you go, Scah-pi-el.
Corrado: Yeah, there you go. It's close enough.
Scene: Felix, is it a greater honor being a legendary rock star or having a sandwich named after you at Savarino's?'
Felix: That's a good question! (laughs) The rock-star thing kind of dwindles, but the sandwich is forever.
(Corrado puts out a tray of cannoli, which gets passed around a couple of tables.)
Al: Hey, what happened? I didn't get one! What the fuck?
Dave: Oh, shit. All hell's gonna break loose now. Al didn't get a cannoli.
(The subject of naming a sandwich for a certain Jewish customer comes up.)
Doug: I think Silverman needs to have a sandwich. It oughta be pancetta, prosciutto, a little Italian sausage...
Nick: Whitefish and tongue. Put on the corner of the menu. Out of respect.
Doug: Frank Dileo is the best sandwich on the menu. It's the most authentic sandwich on the board.
Corrado: This is no bullshit. The best selling one is the Ed. But the Nick and the Frank Dileo, they have, like, a cult following.
(Al starts to wax poetic about the magic of Savarino's.)
Al: You know how you feel when you come in here. It's not about the food only. I'll tell ya, when you get to a certain point in life, you don't waste your time on anything that ain't worth it. You talk about your parents...you just sit here and chill out.
Nick: And there's no Red Lobster in the neighborhood.
Photographed at Savarino's by Eric England