Some of the best neighborhood bars, grills and restaurants in Amsterdam history were those run by husband and wife teams. For example, when you went to Burza’s you looked forward to seeing Irene as much as Stan. At the original Shorty’s on Amsterdam’s South Side, the popular ex boxer took care of the bar while his wife Phil Persico commanded the kitchen. Two generations of spouses made Tuman’s one of this town’s great food and drink stops. First Bill Sr. and wife Helen built the customer base at the Forest Ave. establishment and then their son Bill Jr. and his wife Nadia took over and expanded it. Amsterdam’s West End had its own husband and wife tavern team. Their base was the northeast corner of Division and Bayard Streets and was called Tony’s Restaurant. It was named for a friendly, cigar-chomping Yankee-fan named Tony Fischetti. His indispensable partner and today’s Amsterdam Birthday celebrant was his hard-working better-half, Anna Fischetti.
In the mid sixties, my family moved to a house on the southeast corner of Guy Park and Bayard, just up the street from their Restaurant and right next to the Fischettis’ Guy Park Avenue home. For the next four years, I walked up Bayard Street and past the restaurant window hundreds of times on my way to and from home. On most of those nights, their kitchen window would be open and I’d sometimes see Anna sitting next to it in a lawn chair, waiting for the next pizza or sandwich order to arrive. Whenever I did see her, I’d always say hi and she would often joke with me and say why don’t you come in here and make pizza and let me go home instead. I wish I had because her pizza was unlike any other in the city.
Their busiest nights were usually after Amsterdam High School basketball games when it seemed as if half the people who crammed into the old Lynch gymnasium to watch the great Hilltopper hoop teams of the mid sixties would then try to cram into the less than spacious dining room at Tony’s. The bar would be packed two or three deep and Anna would be inundated with food orders in the kitchen.
While Tony was born in Italy, Anna was born in Manhattan on June 5, 1905. She then returned with her family to their native Italy for a spell before coming back to America to live permanently. In Amsterdam, the Fischetti’s lived upstairs over the restaurant with their two daughters Josephine and Frances. The restaurant pretty much dominated their every waking hour until Tony decided to sell it to a guy from New Jersey, named Al Sylvestri right around 1970. By then, the Fischetti’s had renovated and moved into a large two family home, around the corner from the business at 188 Guy Park Avenue, next door to where I lived during my teen age years.
Every morning when I’d pop out my front door and head to school, Tony would be sitting on the porch, puffing on that cigar, reading the Daily News. As soon as he’d see me, he’d yell out the Yankee score from the previous night’s game and tell me how many hits Bobby Murcer had gotten. Meanwhile, Anna spent her retirement years being a devoted grandmother. Their daughter Frances and her husband lived upstairs from them and Anna was absolutely devoted to the couple’s three young children. She lost a piece of her heart when her beloved Tony died in 1984. Anna Fischetti passed away eleven years later, at the age of 90.
(This popular Amsterdam teacher was also born on June 5th.)