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October 2001

Bread and Jam

Piazza Linda-- where musicians sing for your supper

The steps from the door of Elisabethstrasse 12 lead down past signed photos of musicians and singing stars to a secluded haven for lovers of fine food and good music, run by a woman who is passionate about both. Piazza Linda is the fulfillment of a long-held dream for Linda Jo Rizzo, a vivacious Italian-American singer turned restaurateur.

A New Yorker, Rizzo first came to Munich 16 years ago, as part of the 1980s girl group The Flirts, who were touring Europe on the back of their hit “Passion.” While here, she received an offer to go solo, and stayed. Since then she has recorded over 18 CDs and has performed live all over Germany and Europe. Rizzo still regards singing as her “day job” and performs regularly, mostly at private functions, galas and festivals. She describes herself as an entertainer, who throws herself into her performances, which range from a mellow evening of traditional Italian songs to a high-powered night of danceable pop and rock. She loves to involve her audience, and often pulls people up on stage to dance or sing with her.

For the past year, the entertainer has been bringing that natural energy and empathy to her own venture. Rizzo has always been around restaurants—her father was a pizza chef, and her ex-husband was also an Italian restaurateur—and she had always dreamed of owning her own place. In particular, she wanted to redress Munich’s lack of venues combining food and music. She had thought of it as a project for when she retired from music. But when her pianist, Francesco Mangiaracina, told her last year that a restaurant he played at was up for sale, the deal proved too good to resist, and, in September 2000, Piazza Linda opened its doors.

The intimate and welcoming atmosphere that greets diners is very much Rizzo’s own creation. The décor is that of a classic Italian-American restaurant, with a cozy, homey feel. The eaterie’s walls are lined with smoldering black-and-white photographs of film stars and Italian-American icons, so that you might find yourself seated next to Sophia Loren or Sylvester Stallone. Dark blue, velvet-covered benches line the walls, and the tables are draped with traditional red gingham tablecloths. The lighting is soft and intimate. In warm weather diners can also eat al fresco on the sidewalk terrace.

The menu reflects Rizzo’s southern Italian heritage, and even includes some of her own recipes. Specials are a fixture, but the main menu changes every week, so that guests are presented with novel dishes every time they visit. The focus is on simple, natural, authentic recipes, prepared with love and flair by Piazza Linda’s Sardinian chef.

Three nights a week, the restaurant becomes a venue for music-lovers as well as gourmands. Each night a different pianist takes to the stage between 8 pm and 12 pm. On Tuesdays, Londoner Billy Evans plays a wide variety of styles. On Wednesdays, Sicilian Salvatore Di Natale entertains Italian style. On Thursdays, Linda’s regular accompanist, Francesco Mangiaracina (also from Sicily), plays pop, soul and funk music. All three sing as well as play and, as the atmosphere warms up, Rizzo steps up to the stage herself. Singing in both Italian and English, her repertoire covers Broadway numbers and traditional Italian songs to contemporary anglophone and Italian pop. The many musicians who come to dine at Piazza Linda often join Rizzo and her pianists on stage, adding an element of surprise. The venue welcomes such spontaneous fun, but take note that this is not karaoke—it’s not unusual for American members of the Staatsoper to take the microphone, adding an operatic touch to the evening.

Rizzo’s customers are her priority. She ensures that the American service ethic prevails in her restaurant. She also prefers to employ staff with warmth and personality. Her cook is as talented with music as food, and often contributes a traditional Neapolitan or Sicilian song to the evening’s entertainment. Piazza Linda is a place to linger over a meal and enjoy an evening of song—which is just the way Rizzo wants it.

Piazza Linda is at Elisabethstr. 12, Tel. 27 27 22 01. The restaurant is open Mon.–Sat. 5 pm–1 am, with music Tues.–Thurs. 8 pm–12 am. Linda Jo Rizzo is scheduled to play at the Hippodrome on Wednesdays and Sundays during Oktoberfest. She will be singing with a full band at the Bayerisher Hof nightclub from September 30 to October 2, and will also be performing at the Olympic Center every night during this year’s Sechs Tage Rennen.

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