Billy Joel - The Stranger (1977) - Back Album Cover Location - the former Guido's Restaurant, located in the back half of the Supreme Macaroni pasta store, on the west side of Ninth Avenue (511 Ninth Avenue) between 38th and 39th Streets, New York (now demolishd).
This is the back cover of Billy Joel's album The Stranger from 1977. It's a photo of Billy, his band, and their producer eating at a family-styler neighborhood Italian restaurant in the Hell's Kitchen section of Manhattan.
According to Phil Ramone's (the record producer) autobiography, Making Records, the photoshoot was impromptu and all the members were wearing the clothes they wore to the practice session that day. Clockwise from the top left they are: Phil Ramone (producer and Yankes fan), Liberty DeVitto (drums), Billy Joel (piano,vocals), Richie Cannata (Alto & Tenor Saxophones), and Doug Stegmeyer (electric bass).
(photo: Jim Houghton)
Here's the album cover, taken in a studio. It is a picture of Billy sitting on a bed next to a harlequin mask, with boxing gloves hanging on the wall behind him (Billy used to box).
(album courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment; cover photo: Jerry Abramowitz)
This is a color out-take of the back album cover shot of the group at the table which was sent to me by Mike Stutz, a Billy Joel fan.
I lightened it up a little so we can see the pictures on the back wall. According to Phil Ramone in his autobography, the restaurant would later put copies of this photo on the wall too!
Here's the front of the former spaghetti store/restaurant where they shot the photo. The front of Supreme Macaroni was a store: the back was a "red sauce" Italian restaurant called "Guido's" selling traditional Italian pastas and dishes.
This is what the back room looked like. These photos come from the website (Avilinks) of a German tourist who came to New York and was looking for filming locations of a movie called Leon: The Professional which was filmed here. More on this later. Thank you, Avilinks. (I ran across the photos by searching Google Images with the address of the restaurant.)
And here's a close-up of the kitchen.
In this shot, I've inserted the black-and-white shot of the band (plus Phil Ramone, producer/engineer; top left) having dinner.
For the album cover shot, they had actually moved the table in front of the entrance to the kitchen. You can tell from the doorway in back and the stove vent in back of that.
Note that there's the same photo of three people in the background in both shots. More on this in a minute.
And here, a color shot.
And here, I've taken out the photo background.
I had read on several websites that Supreme Macaroni was where the cover shoot had taken place. But I wasn't 100% sure of it until I found the following photo on a foodie website. It was a photo of the owners of Supreme Macaroni, from before it was closed.
It was the same couple that was in a photo the back of the Billy Joel picture, pictured with their daughter. The pictures had probably been taken at the same photo session. The man has the same moustache. The woman seated has the same flower on her dress. Bada-Bing, Bada-Boom! This was the place!
Here, for the hardcore fans, is a review of Guido's (often called Supreme Macaroni Company) from the web from several years back, for posterity, since it's probably off the web by this time.
And here's where Guido's Restautant/Supreme Macaroni was in relation to where they were recording The Stranger.
Here's another shot of the front of Supreme Macaroni store.
It turns out that the store played a big roll in the 1994 Luc Bresson movie The Professional (Leon: The Professional in France) starring Jean Reno as a mob hitman, Danny Aiello, the main mobster, Natalie Portman as a 12-year old taken in by the hitman, and Gary Oldman as a corrupt DEA agent.
In fact, the lead character gets all his assassination assignments from Danny Aiello, as they sit together at the same table where Billy and his Band sat.
Here's the assassin getting served as the table. (note the same family photos on the wall to the right of the door.)
And here's what it would have looked like if Billy and the boys were there at the same time. Yo, Billy! It's Leon! How's the pasta fagioli?
For that last shot I substituted this alternative shot of everybody eating. In this shot Phil Ramone, on the right, has changed from his Yankees shirt into a patterned shirt.
(photo: Jim Houghton)
Here's the young Natalie Portman in the movie.
And here's bad guy Gary Oldman, storming in to do some damage. Note the neon pig in the window.
We saw it in the earlier photo.
The 5-story building holding the restaurant was demolished just about two years ago, but I'll show you what it used to look like. First, here's the store from a movie location website.
And here's what it looked like from around the time of the movie.
Then it got knocked down, something which is lamentably happening all over Manhattan.
Today, this huge office building has gone up in its place, on the west side of Ninth Avenue between 38th and 39th Street.
Supreme Macaroni would have been right here. (It's a block down from the back of the Port Authority Building west of Times Square.)
The album contained an amazing string of hits, including: "Moving Out (Anthony's Song),""The Stranger," "Just the Way You Are," "Only the Good Die Young." "She's Always a Woman to Me, " and "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant."
But although the back cover was photographed in an Italian restaurant, that wasn't the one about which Billy conceived the song "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant."
That honor goes to the restaurant pictured below, Fontana De Trevi (The Trevi Fountain) which used to be across from Carnegie Hall in New York at 151 West 57th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues..
(Photo: Kate Lenova/Property Shark)
It was here that a waiter reportedly came up to Billy and said the immortal words, "A bottle of white? A bottle of red? Perhaps a bottle of rosé instead?".
(Photo: Kate Lenova/Property Shark)
The author of this entry, from a website called "Family Greenberg," seems to have done his/her research on the "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" origins....
There's a huge new skyscraper being built where Fontana Di Trevi used to be.
But you can approximate where the restaurant was: It was basically across the street from the Russian Tea Room awning, but actually about one building over from where it is in this picture.
That would be here on a map.
By the way, if you are unfamiliar with popular sights in Rome, the restaurant's namesake, The Trevi Fountain, in Rome looks, pretty awesomely, like this...
Back in New York, here's a close-up of the front window at Christmastime taken a few years back by "Jim" on Flickr.
And a copy of the menu. I hear that White goes well with the shrimp; Red with the fried calamari. On the other hand, maybe split the difference and have a Rosé instead?
Here's the only picture I could get of what I think is the interior of the restaurant. Reviews online said that "the restaurant hadn't changed much since the 50's," so I'm not 100% sure of this photo. (If you've got a shot, send it in.)
Now, there are also those Billy fans who think that the real Italian restaurant from "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant," is Christiano's, in Syosset, New York which is on Long Island and near to where Billy grew up and also where several the houses he lived in were.
Here's a picture of Christiano's, located at 21 Ira Road, Syosset, New York.
During a concert ar Carnegie Hall, before Billy played "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" he said, "This is for Christiano's" (However he was later quoted in the New York Daily News as saying he made that up.
The issue is discussed in a biography of Billy called Billy Joel: The Biography by Mark Bego (2007). A Cold Springs Harbor native and record excutive is quoted saying that she and her friends always believed it was Christiano's (which is located at 19 Ira Road in Syossett). And later in the book, Richie Cannata from Billy's band is quoted as saying "Where 'Scenes from an Italian Restaurant' was written about, was this Italian restaurant in Syosset, Long Island, called Christiano's."
However, at another point in the book, Liberty Devitto, another band member, is quoted as saying, "People assumed that it was Christiano's...that was the inspiration....because Billy went there all the time. But... he went to a lot of them (i.e. Italian restaurants on Long Island) ...so it's a conglomeration."
Here's a map of Christiano's in relation to Manhattan and also to the Oyster Bay area where Billy has lived in several houses.
Before we wind up, I want to show you a color out-take from the cover shot ( which was printed in black and white). You can CLICK on it and make it huge.
...and a black-and-white publicity shot, continuing the boxing theme.
Also, the back cover of the CD.
Well, that's it, folks. As the band is saying in this picture "Salut! Thanks for visiting!"
Be sure to check out THE ADDENDUM (below) for more about the album and the Supreme Macaroni Company.
Tarra Tournour (nee Scarola), whose father owned the Supreme Macaroni Company was kind enough to give some more background about the restaurant and also some films made there. After the letter I put in some scans of some of the films. Thanks, Tarra!
"Hi Bob - My name is Tarra Tournour (nee Scarola) and my father owned the Supreme Macaroni Company until his death in 2004. I was so excited to come across your website - my father was very proud of the fact that Billy Joel had taken that picture at his restaurant and he would have been very excited as well. Just a few things I thought you might be interested in learning:
The Supreme Macaroni Co. was started in 1947 by my great-grandmother Asunta (Susie) Scarola and her second husband (my step great-grandfather) Guido. The building was a pasta factory called the Supreme Macaroni Co. when they purchased it and they simply kept the name. Susie and Guido started with a deli and Guido would occasionally cook in the back.
Guido left Susie and returned to Italy ca. 1961; at that time, Susie's son Mikey took over the business. He served food to customers and downplayed the deli aspect of the place but it wasn't until ca. 1975 when my father Tommy Scarola took over the restaurant that it became the place you see on the back of The Stranger album. My father later sold the building and restaurant and it was subsequently demolished.
When my father took over, he had a vision. He saw that Hell's Kitchen was becoming a chic place to be and fashioned the Supreme Macaroni Co. to match. He ripped out all the drywall in the place, returned the walls to their original brick (the building reportedly started as a stable for police horses back in the 1800's), and removed the dropped ceiling to reveal a vaulted ceiling with a beautiful original skylight. He put old family photos on the walls, red checked tablecloths on the tables, and large portions of family style meals on the menu and the customers flocked to it.
In addition to The Stranger album cover being shot there, the restaurant had scenes from many movies filmed with it as a backdrop - not just "The Professional," but "Mighty Aphrodite," the academy award winning film by Woody Allen starring Mira Sorvino, "Bright Lights, Big City" starring Michael J. Fox, and "The Anderson Tapes" starring Sean Connery.
Additionally, several commercials and magazine photo shoots featured the restaurant and it was mentioned in Nevada Barr's novel "Liberty Falling" because she was a fan. Even 10 years after it closed, the author Adrianna Trigiani named her latest novel "The Supreme Macaroni Co." because she ate dinner there many times and liked the name.
Finally, many stars dined at the restaurant - Rob Reiner, Alec Baldwin, John F. Kennedy Jr., Ava Gardner, Carol Burnett, Frank Sinatra, Ingrid Bergman, Mickey Rooney, Brooke Shields, The Police, Peter, Paul and Mary, The Who, Rudy Guiliani, Ed MacMahon, and John Ritter just to name a few.
The photo you found on the foodie website of the man and woman are indeed the founders of the Supreme Macaroni Co. Susie and Guido The second photo you used to "verify" that the album cover was indeed shot at the Supreme Macaroni Co., was not of Susie, Guido and their daughter as you had supposed nor was it the same photo shoot. Although the clothes look similar, the second photo was actually taken much later and is of Susie (seated) and her children Mikey (my grandfather) and Faye (both standing).
The Supreme Macaroni Co. was a huge part of my life and was my father's entire life. It means a lot to my family and I that there are websites like yours that keep the memory of it alive with your research for fans who want to know the history."
Sincerely, Tarra Tournour
HERE ARE PICTURES FROM THE FILMS TARRA WROTE ABOUT THAT WERE FILMED IN THE SUPREME MACARONI COMPANY.
From The Mighty Aphrodite (Woody Allen, Mira Sorvino)
From The Mighty Aphrodite (Woody Allen, Mira Sorvino)
From Bright Lights, Big City (Michael J. Fox)
From Bright Lights, Big City (Tracy Pollan)
From The Anderson Tapes (Alan King)
From The Anderson Tapes (Alan King, Jerry Orbach)