80th Birthday For Nino's Patriarch Vincenzo Cristiano...In Sights And Sounds
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(February 5, 2004) -- Roughly 100 people gathered at Long Beach's oldest Italian restaurant to celebrate...and the City Council in CA's fifth largest city took time to acknowledge...
...the 80th birthday of Vincenzo Cristiano, patriarch of Nino's Ristorante Italiano.
LBReport.com provides some sights and sounds below.
It was a joyful, and at times emotional, evening at the Bixby Knolls business on Atlantic Ave., inseparable from the family members who built it. Those attending the Feb. 3 celebration -- and sending special proclamations -- ranged from devoted customers to former employees with familiar names.
Several decades ago, 16-year old Frank Colonna -- now Vice Mayor of the City of Long Beach -- made pizzas at Nino's. While unable to attend due to the evening's City Council meeting...
...Vice Mayor Colonna had a special birthday greeting delivered to his old boss via Council office staffer Julie Maleki.
Another Nino's alumnus is Terry Jensen, who washed dishes at Nino's in 1958. Today, Mr. Jensen is a candidate for LB City Council (among three challengers to the 8th district incumbent). "Nino's had just opened a year earlier and everyone worked very hard. It was a true family business," Mr. Jensen said.
Following the Council meeting, 9th district Councilman Val Lerch stopped by on his way back to NLB.
ELB residents, retired Mayor Ernie Kell and Councilwoman Jackie Kell, are regulars. Mayor Kell has a dish named for him ("Spaghetti alla Ernie Kell" with olive oil, garlic and special herbs, mushrooms if desired.)
Mayor Kell brought along some sort of document he kept tightly guarded while repeatedly checking the time. We couldn't figure out what he was doing...until 7 o'clock rolled around and someone flipped on a TV carrying the live telecast of the Long Beach City Council meeting.
As the Council wrapped up an agenda item, Councilwoman Jackie Kell said to Mayor O'Neill, "It's 7 o' clock, it's time." The Mayor gave Councilwoman Kell the floor.
The crowd in Bixby Knolls fell silent and watched (Mrs. Cristiano in foreground)...
...and daughter Carina and husband David Leoni were all smiles...
...as Mr. Cristiano pulled up a chair and saw the following take place:
|Councilwoman Jackie Kell: ...This City Council could be at a party right now, but we couldn't accept the invitation because of our Council meeting. And what party could we have been at? Nino's!
There is a large party at Nino's Restaurant tonight, celebrating the 80th birthday of its congenial owner, Vince Cristiano.
And so many of you know Vince in this community...It's his 80th birthday. (Council chamber applause).
Councilman Rob Webb: Happy birthday, Enzo.
Mayor O'Neill: Happy birthday.
Screen save courtesy LBTV channel 8
Councilwoman Kell: We are also celebrating that this business has continued to prosper into its 46th year. It is serving delicious Italian food with a three star rating.
This has been a successful family business. Inge, Vince's wife, as well as his son, Nino, whose name graces the restaurant, his son Mike and daughter Carina have all been participating in this success story.
So, from all of us, the Mayor and City Council: Vince, happy birthday!
Mayor O'Neill: Happy birthday.
Councilwoman Kell: And Ernie, who has a dish named after him, our former Mayor, is now going to present Vince with a plaque of appreciation. Go for it! Happy birthday Vince!
|To hear the Council acknowledgment (in MP3 format), click here. (1:42)
If you don't have the "real audio" playback unit, you can download it free at: RealOne player download
Up in Bixby Knolls, Mayor Kell presented the document to Mr. Cristiano to loud applause.
The story of Nino's is well known locally. In 1957, Vincenzo Cristiano and wife Inge (having survived wartime Europe) arrived in LB with two sons (Nino four years old, Mike four weeks; daughter Carina would arrive considerably later). Mr. Cristiano brought with him family recipes handed down from generations beyond current memory...and built Nino's with the care of a family kitchen. Home made delicacies include cauliflower pancakes and (on lucky days) a spinach and carrot soup. Many customers are fanatics over their favorite dishes.
Among Nino's fans, Los Cerritos/Bixby Knolls realtors Mike and Kathy Kowal.
Mr. Cristiano's children came to the microphone and offered warm words for their Dad.
Nino: "My father is a man of honor, generosity and love."
Mike: "I love this man more than anything in the world."
Carina: "When I was growing up, my father told me always to put God first."
Vince sang a touching Italian-language tribute to wife Inge -- Femina [woman]...
...then launched into a rousing, hand-clapping, foot-stoping rendition of Ho MaMa!
Mr. Cristiano told wellwishers that Mayor Kell once said, "When you have friends, you have money in the bank."
Looking out over the crowd, Mr. Cristiano said "With all of you here, I have lots of money in the bank."
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