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Crooning and Meatballs

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MATT STEVENS
  • Matt Stevens

Is there anything more American than a restaurant chain devoted to marketing ethnic kitsch? Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Randy Rodriguez. Because if there's anything more American than a restaurant whose walls serve as a shrine to Frank Sinatra, Vic Damone and all things Italian-American, it's the fact that its singing waiter is dark, handsome and 100 percent Dominican.

Buca di Beppo is a Minneapolis-based restaurant chain that is to Italian America what Lucky Charms cereal is to the Irish. But unlike the cereal, Buca makes food you'd actually want to eat. And sometimes an Italian meal is just not authentic if you don't hear "That's Amore" at least three times.

That's where Rodriguez comes in. Mr. Rodriguez, 34, located to the Springs a year and a half ago and makes the ultimate Buca waiter. He's polite, expedient and able to condense two decades of Old Blue Eyes hits into a three-minute medley. He also remembers your order.

Rodriguez is a fast talking New York born stand-up comedian/screenwriter/ wedding singer who insists he's not sick of Sinatra, despite singing him five nights a week. In 30 minutes he reminded this reporter no less than three times that he would only be Buca's singing waiter if his managers and coworkers supported him by covering his tables while be belts out everything from "New York, New York" to "Mack the Knife" and, of course, "That's Amore."

It started when Rodriguez decided to sing at his own wedding. When his guests told him he was good, he shrugged it off. When they wanted to hire him, he started thinking.

Now he's set to launch his own business singing with an orchestra at weddings, corporate events and what every entertainer either dreams of or dreads: assisted living facilities.

"That's really the market for this type of music," he said with a smile.

In the meantime, you can still catch him at Buca Wednesdays through Sundays. Come hungry.

-- story by John Dicker
photo by Matt Stevens

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