Trap and Safehouse Owner Buys Besos

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

The Town Council Monday night approved the transfer of the Besos liquor, victualing and entertainment license from Kristin and Mike Della Grotta to TJ Martucci, owner of Forge Road restaurants Safehouse and The Trap.

Simultaneously, Besos restaurant manager Dana Wronski is leaving the restaurant at the end of the month. Wronski, a singer when she’s not working in restaurants,  is moving to Nashville.

“It was the right time and he was the right person to take the restaurant to the next level,” said Della Grotta Monday.

Martucci said he wasn’t planning big changes for the restaurant and, in fact, was working with Wronski to make sure there is a smooth transition. The staff and head chef are staying put, he said.

Martucci said he’d admired Besos for a while.

“If all the restaurants on Main Street were for sale, I would still choose Besos,” said Martucci.

Wronski said the decision to leave Besos and East Greenwich has been bittersweet.

“I am very blessed to have been a part of this unique and wonderful experience at Besos,” she said. “Kristin and Mike’s goal was to create a beautiful place in the town where the hospitality is paramount and the offerings are delicious and creative – a place that makes a positive impact not just within the four walls, but out in the community as well. I believe we succeeded and for that, I am very proud. And I’m confident in handing the reins over to TJ.”

Wronski added, “I will forever cherish my days at 378 Main Street and most certainly miss my precious restaurant family and loyal guests. Thank you for the love everybody!”



 

EG Athletic Hall of Fame Takes Place May 5

Among this year’s honorees are Bob Corr, Chris Della Grotta, Stephanie Gloria and Kristen Manson.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

The East Greenwich Athletic Hall of Fame will honor its 2018 slate of inductees as well as present special awards and the two Ucci Award scholarship recipients at its annual banquet Saturday, May 5, at the Quonset “O” Club.

In this year’s class are Bob Corr, Class of 1976; Allen Pritchard, Class of 1978; Chris Della Grotta, 1983; Stephanie (Balkcom) Gloria, 1989; Mike Kamin, 1991; Steve DiIuro, 1992; and Kristen Manson, 1995.

Michael Kamin, Class of 1991: A four-year varsity track and three-year basketball star, Kamin was a three-time All State shot put champion and javelin thrower. He holds school records in both events.

In basketball he was All State leading team to a State title and was a Street & Smith Honorable Mention All America. He helped EG to 1991 Class B State hoop title and was a Providence Journal Honor Roll Nominee.

At the University of Illinois he was a two-time letter winner in javelin and is one of the Illini’s top ten throwers of All-Time. In 1992 he was Top Male Student-Athlete and was All Academic Big Ten three times, also winning U of I’s prestigious George Huff Award.

Stephanie Balkcom Gloria, Class of 1989: Played four sports at EGHS. Cross Country, Basketball, Soccer and Track. She established five school records in three sports – track, basketball and soccer. Steph earned first team All Division honors 9 times and All State Honorable Mention 4x.

In college Balcom played club basketball one year and club soccer one year but made her mark running varsity cross country and track for the Fordham Rams. She was named All Patriot League in 1992 and placed in the PL’s top 15 Indoor track times for the Mile and the 3000. Her running sparked Fordham’s Patriot League title in 1990 and Metropolitan crown in 1992.

Stephanie Balkcom Gloria continues her running to this day and took a first place in the Don Davis Memorial 5K. She has also been a high finisher in several other Road Races in the Ocean State.

Robert J. Corr, Class of 1976: A first team All Class B selection in football at EGHS. Also a member of the track team. Next, at Governor Dummer Academy he played football and lacrosse and was named 2nd team Boston Globe Independent Prep Team as running back.

At Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania, Bob was a four-year starter in Lacrosse and a three-year starter in football. He came to EGHS as a Freshman football coach and also did JV and assistant varsity before taking over the reins in 2002. As Head Varsity Coach he turned out an undefeated regular season team in 2004, which lost in playoff semi-finals. In 2005 EG lost in semis again, but in 2006 Bob piloted the Division iii Super Bowl champions. 2007 saw them rush into the semi-finals again before losing.

Corr founded the East Greenwich Alumni Football Association, which started the now traditional Annual Thanksgiving Eve Pasta Dinner.

Chris Della Grotta, Class of 1983: A four-year hockey standout for the Ice Avengers, he graduated in the top 10 of his class. Made the Phi Beta Kaplan Society and was first team All Division. Selected to RI All Star team, which won the 1983 New England Yankee Conference Tournament. He played in 127 games at EG and had 80 goals and 138 assists, giving him the All Time scoring record at 218 points. He was named MVP twice and his teams won Met B crowns three times.

At Bentley College he played four years of hockey getting two hat tricks as a freshman, with seven overall there and garnering six game-winning goals. He ended up as Bentley’s 9th All Time scorer by the time he graduated cum laude with a degree in accounting.

Allen Pritchard, Class of 1978: A four-year starter in both football and baseball and a three-year starter in wrestling, Pritchard was All Conference as an Outfielder (JR) and as a pitcher (SR) and was co-MVP. In wrestling he came in fourth in state at 185 as a senior.

He was one of two people ever outside of Warwick to be asked to play for Warwick’s American Legion Shields Post #43. At Elon College he was best pitcher in ’80 and ’81 and was #2 in the NAIA in ERA. He also won NAIA All District and All Conference honors and had school honors in victories and ERA marks.

He was elected to the Elon College Sports Hall of Fame and chosen to throw out the first pitch when Elon celebrated 100 years of baseball in a game versus Brown. He was invited to the St. Louis Cardinals for a tryout and played for the Johnson City Cardinals minor league team.

Stephen DiIuro, Class of 1992: Wrestling, football and baseball at EGHS, while playing soccer for EGSA travel teams during that period. DiIuro was a Wrestling All Stater and the 145-pound champion, also making All League. He was the Class B Sectional Champion. The team’s captain he was chosen as a Providence Journal Bulletin Winter All Star.

In football he was second team All State, first team All League, the Thanksgiving Day MVP and his team’s MVP. Steve was also named the Dr. Uno Uustal Award winner and EGHS Most Outstanding Male Athlete Award winner. He also served as student council president for two years. He graduated from URI with a B.S. in Management Science and Information Systems.

Kristen Manson, Class of 1995: A field hockey, basketball and softball star at East G., Manson went on to star in field hockey at James Madison University and coach at Central Michigan and then back at JMU. In field hockey she was All Division twice and All State twice while leading her team to state titles. She made All Tournament  and was the defensive MVP in the state All Star game. She also served as the Avenger captain.

In basketball she made All Division twice and was also Honorable Mention All State.

At James Madison, Kristen grabbed All Conference honors and was a NCAA Regional All American second teamer. She was the Lady Dukes team captain, team MVP and played in the North-South Senior All Star Game. In her time at JMU they were CAA Champs, an NCAA Final Four team, and were ranked in the top ten.

As an Assistant Coach at Central Michigan, she helped the Lady Chips take the 2002 MAC Field Hockey Championship.

The EGAHOF will also be honoring three local residents with special awards – Kerri Withrow Valentine, who will receive the Special Recognition Award; and Fred “BeBe” MacDonald and Bruce Roberts, will be presented with Golden Avenger Awards.

The Special Recognition Award goes to an Individual who has given of themselves selflessly in supports of athletics in the Town of East Greenwich and whose efforts are integral in perpetuating the town’s athletic tradition.

The Golden Avenger Awards are given to individual, who grew up in the town, had success

in athletics and have given back to the EG community throughout their lives, and, whose efforts have laid the groundwork for the town’s athletic tradition.

Kerri Withrow Valentine was a four-year field hockey standout at EGHS and captained the team her senior year. She returned the next year as an Assistant Coach and was part of the program, which won four state and seven division titles.

In 2004 she became EGYFH president, a program that has grown and grown under her direction. The EGYFH runs spring clinics, leagues and summer camps. It sponsors a high school summer league and a fall program.

In 2017, Valentine was nominated for the NFHCA Junior Hockey Award.

Fred “BeBe” MacDonald graduated from East Greenwich High School in 1950. As an Avenger he played four years of baseball, four years of football, four years of baseball, managed the basketball team and also was on the wrestling club team.

He served in the Korean War and, while in the service, also played baseball for his base team.

A lifelong quahaugger, MacDonald is still bullraking at the age of 86. He managed the Shell Fishermen’s Co-Op, Eastern Seafood, started Independent Fishermen’s Co-Op and built 10 condos on his property off Forge Road. To give back to his community, “BeBe” started a scholarship program for the children of quahauggers.

Bruce Roberts played for East Greenwich High School in the 1960s. He jokes that he had an intimate relationship with future Rhode Island Governor Don Carcieri, as Roberts was the center and Carcieri the quarterback. Bruce also played for the excellent EG Townie teams of the early to mid ‘60s. Those teams won both the Rhode Island Semi-Pro Championship with an unbeaten season, and the next year took the Southeastern Massachusetts title with a 9-1 record.

After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, Bruce coached lacrosse at schools out of state before moving back to East Greenwich and joining the LAX staff at East Greenwich High School, where he has been a valuable contributor to the success that Avenger teams have had on the lacrosse pitch.

Ucci Award Winners

Andrew Blessing, a three-sport athlete in football, basketball, baseball, plus a few others, and Jennifer Imbriglio, a four-sport athlete, have been chosen as the 2018 Ucci Award winners. They are both from East Greenwich High School.

Blessing was on the football team for three years and was the quarterback and captain. He also played basketball for three years and baseball for two. In between he played golf and was on the track and cross country teams.

Very active in the school, he was on the student council, Prom Committee and the Future Business Leaders of America. He helps out in the community by working with the EG Youth Basketball Association and is a camp counselor for Safety Town of East Greenwich, and is a standard bearer for the CVS Charity Golf Classic. He also served as a counselor for the East Greenwich Parks and Recreation and ran a pet-sitting business.

Andrew is a National Honor Society Member, a Rhode Island Scholar-Athlete Award winner, was second team All Division in football and made the All Academic team.

Blessing was a National Leadership Conference Qualifier for FBLA and helped EGHS to the freshman state title in cross country as a freshman. He was also named a Rhode Island Scholar Athlete in football.

Andrew is deciding between Bentley (for football), Holy Cross and Fordham (where he might walk on) and Boston College (for school only).

Imbriglio is equally accomplished. She played field hockey for four years, ran outdoor track for four and ice hockey for three with one year in indoor track.

She was on student council for four years, and the same with International Club, EG AfterProm, Airband and The Crimson Yearbook. To a lesser degree she was also involved with Avengers for Animals, Prom Committee, and the marching band.

In the community, Jennifer has participated in the R.I. National Guard Military Family Program, the Women & Infants Hospital Teen Volunteer Program, Our Lady of Mercy’s Vacation Bible Camp, OLM Bread Lines Volunteer and Junior Legion of Mary. She also coaches first to third graders in EG Youth Field Hockey, gives out toys, hats and gloves to children in West Bay Community Action, coordinates birthday parties at Aim High Academy, works at Wild Harvest Bakery and serves as an EGHS Tour Guide, was an original organizing member of Roomz Without Walls.

Imbriglio has also been nominated for the coveted annual SLTP Student Leader of the Year Award 2016-17, is a national Honor Society member, earned an Honorable Mention for the Premio de Plata (National Spanish Exam), was an AP Scholar, won the George Eastman Young Leaders Award and the Rhode Island Scholar Athlete Award.

Jennifer will attend Quinnipiac University in the fall and will play either club field hockey or varsity ice hockey.

The banquet – at the Quonset “O” Club, 200 Lt. James Brown Road, North Kingstown – begins at 2 p.m. Tickets are $25. For tickets and more information, contact Jeff Santos at 884-3515 or jsantoseg@verizon.net, or Guy Asadorian at 884-4143 or guyasa821@gmail.com.

A note: The format for the Anthony “Tar Tar” Ucci Awards will change slightly for next year. A new application has been formulated and it will be distributed and announced at East Greenwich High School in early January. There will be a two-month period to apply and the applications will be submitted to Anthony Ucci, who will head a committee of Vincent and Joseph Ucci, David Ucci Sr. and Bruce Mastracchio, all nephews of East Greenwich’s true athletic legend. Winners receive a dinner, a plaque and a monetary scholarship award.

Main Street Stroll Schedule Mixes It Up This Year

Dog Stroll takes place May 31 while Chalk a Block contest has moved to July. 

East Greenwich, R.I. – The East Greenwich Chamber of Commerce has announced its Main Street Stroll schedule for 2018 and there are a couple of changes: Main Street is going to the dogs earlier this year, with the Dogs on Main stroll set for Thursday, May 31. Meanwhile, the annual Chalk a Block contest – traditionally on a Saturday in May – has moved to Thursday evening, July 26, paired with the Arts on Main stroll.

The Main Street Stroll series features businesses open late, live music and sidewalk vendors, creating a party-like atmosphere downtown.

Music on Main will take place on Thursday, June 21, coinciding with the summer solstice – the longest day of the year.

The Taste of Main stroll – when restaurants up and down Main Street offer samples – will be held on Thursday, Aug. 23.

The strolls start at 5 p.m.

 

EGHS Wall of Honor Celebrates Community

From left, Diane McDonald (with a granddaughter), Matt Plain, John Chandler, Bernice Pescosolido, and Guy Asadorian – the 2018 inductees of the EGHS Wall of Honor.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

EGHS Wall of Honor inductee Bernice Pescosolido had to leave East Greenwich before she could understand the its power.

“The most important thing that EG High School and the Town of East Greenwich and – I have to say – the state of Rhode Island provides for people … is a sense of community and a sense of belonging,” said Pescosolido.

“I’m so proud to be from East Greenwich because we really were this working class community,” she said. “I had no idea that what we were was so special and so different. I’ve come to understand and believe that.”

Pescosolido graduated from the high school in 1970 and is a distinguished professor of sociology at Indiana University. (You can read more about Pescosolido and the other four inductees here.)

John Chandler, Class of 1966, lived in East Greenwich a mere five years. He spent four of them at EGHS and it made its mark. He made his mark too, serving as class president for two years, among other distinctions.

Chandler, who had an illustrious career in information technology, almost didn’t finish high school in East Greenwich. His family, after moving to EG from California before his 8th grade year, moved to Oklahoma the summer before his senior year.

He ended up staying with the Forscht family for that final year of high school.

Chandler’s life has been elsewhere ever since 1966 but Chandler’s love of EGHS came through loud and clear Wednesday.

“I feel like I’ve come  home,” he said before launching into his prepared remarks.

“I’ve been the fortunate beneficiary of an enormous amount of support from this community and love from my family for my entire life,” said Matt Plain, the youngest of the night’s honorees. He graduated in 1994.

Plain, a member of the EG School Committee, made his love of the EG schools clear, recalling all those who taught or guided him in elementary school, including the school custodian.

“Who could forget Bobby Taylor, keeping our school clean and safe for everybody to enjoy,” Plain said.

Plain started out as a teacher himself. A lawyer now, he continues to work on education issues.

Diane McDonald spoke about how she got to live out her childhood dream, riding horses and then owning her own stable (Dapper Dan). For McDonald, the daughter of teachers (her father, Norman Monks, taught and coached in East Greenwich for decades), being a horsewoman was not a given. But it was something she always wanted to do, she said.

If she could tell young people anything, she said, it would be to “follow your passion. Don’t settle for a job that’s just a job.”

Guy Asadorian, Class of 1982, spoke lovingly of this town he’s never left.

“It’s that whole deep sense of community that, really, gave me the foundation to try and be successful as an adult,” he said. Asadorian works in financial services.

“I’ve done a lot of volunteer work in this town and I’m 100 percent certain that it’s that connection that I have to the community that’s really motivated me to want to give back.”

There was a sixth person honored Wednesday night, if not officially. That was Dominic Iannazzi, who died in 2017. Iannazzi was a teacher, school administrator and coach in East Greenwich from the 1950s into the late 1970s. He wanted no fanfare upon his death but Wall of Honor organizer Bruce Mastracchio recounted a couple Iannazzi stories and that seemed to prompt others.

John Chandler said before he was able to find a permanent home for his senior year (his family had moved out of state), Iannazzi actually took him in for six weeks.

Bernice Pescosolido recounted how she’d tried hard to stay off Iannazzi’s radar since her brothers were definitely ON his radar.

“I just thought if Mr. Iannazzi knew my name I would automatically be given detention,” she said.

Diane McDonald DID get detention.

She’d asked if she could take a day off school to compete in a horse show. Iannazzi said no, but she went anyway. When McDonald turned up at school the next day with a note, Iannazzi held up the newspaper announcing that she’d won a trophy at the horse show. He gave her two days detention.

If you know of someone from EGHS you think should be put on the Wall of Honor, contact Bruce Mastracchio at thebrooker23@yahoo.com.


East Greenwich News is reader supported. If you like what you’re reading, please consider making a donation. Click on the link below. Thanks!


 

 

 

Hey, Performers! ‘Race to Stage’ Deadline Is April 1

Summer’s End tried something new last year and it was such a success it’s back again this year – “Race to the Stage” offers musicians of all varieties the chance to compete for a spot on the program at the annual Summer’s End concert at Eldredge Field.

Last year, 47 acts entered the contest, 12 were chosen to audition at the Race to the Stage show at the Odeum and 4 were selected to perform at Summer’s End on Aug. 31. The acts included a classical guitarist, a yodeling country singer, a rock band and a local duo.

This year, who knows who might win? And, to sweeten the pot, Summer’s End has added cash prizes – $500 for first place, $300 for second and $200 for third.

But if you or someone you know is interested in competing, time is running out! Submissions must be in by April 1. Contestants can go to the website to submit an application and link to a video. Race to the Stage performers will be announced by mid-April. The event is Sunday, April 29, at 4 p.m. at the Odeum. You can buy tickets here ($10) or at the door ($15).

Each contestant will perform one song. EG’s own Sal Sauco is emcee for the event and the judges this year will be Dana Wronski, Katie Kleyla, Megan Catelli, and Bill McGrath. They do feedback American-Idol style after each performance and at the end, they confer with one another and announce three winners (last year, there were so many strong acts that they chose four).

Last year’s winners:

About the judges:

Megan Winters Catelli is currently a string specialist at Cole Middle School in East Greenwich where she teaches orchestra and band.  Formerly, she was the director of orchestras for the Easton, Mass., public schools. Megan is a cellist who performs locally, often with small chamber groups or as a soloist for special occasions.  She is an East Greenwich native and a University of Rhode Island graduate in Music Education.

Katie Kleyla, soprano, is a lover of music, art, and laughter.   She is a graduate of URI, with a B.A. in Music. She is the star of the New Providence Big Band, a 20 piece swing band, selected by Providence Monthly as the Most Musical Act in Rhode Island.  She was the featured soloist of URI’s Big Band, conducted by Grammy nominated composer, Joe Parillo. She is cantor at St. Joseph’s in Providence, and has sung in churches throughout New England.   She has performed with Opera Providence, New Bedford Festival Theatre, and performs weekly with a jazz quartet. Favorite appearances: the annual Christmas Gala at the Breakers Mansion in Newport, performing in Providence’s famed “Superman Building,” and singing with the R.I. Philharmonic.

Bill McGrath: Bill is the vice president of the R.I. Country Music Association, former Vice President of R.I. Country Horizons.  Bill is also a member of the Massachusetts Country Music Association. He is a Promoter of Bill McGrath’s Music Series, Performance Director of Rising.  Bill is also a member of the R.I. Songwriters Association.  Bill is an honorary member of the RI Country Music Hall of Fame.

Dana Wronski:  Dana is a talented local singer-songwriter.  She has recorded here and is the musical director for Destiny Africa Children’s Choir in Kampala, Uganda.  Dana is a familiar person in town for overseeing some of our favorite culinary hangouts; she is the proprietor of Besos Kitchen and Cocktails here in town.  Dana has played at Summer’s End several times in the past.




 

A Valuable Lesson

By Bob Houghtaling

Social and emotional learning is an essential, but often overlooked, component of the educational process. In a world that seems to move quicker each day, how we communicate, problem solve, and handle stress need to be things that are taught to our children. In the midst of an opioid crisis, as well as our seeking ways to address gun violence, teaching skills to promote interaction and understanding should be a priority. Perhaps by “remembering” we can find a few answers. Sometimes complicated concerns have to be addressed using the simplest of means.

Remember

Remember when there was a thing called play
And children did it most every day
On the swings or chasing a ball
Engaged in fun nearly all

Remember when we spoke face to face
And not at such hurried pace
A smile, hug or pat on the back
Perhaps two friends walking ’round a track

Somehow these days have passed from view
For constant quest of something new
With most contacts by computer or phone
Little wonder we now feel alone

Remember lessons when teachers spoke
With skills intended to evoke
Critical thinking through passionate minds
While having time to be quite kind

Remember when imagination reigned
And far off places learners gained
With time left to stare at clouds
Engaging friends, to laugh out loud

Now the pressure for test scores
Has forced our leaders need implore
Students to ride a conveyer belt
Scarce time concerning what was felt

Perhaps remembering not long ago
Is something all of us do know
And teaching young people this simple gift
Can cure that which has become bereft

So, let’s remember to take a walk
Spend moments sharing heartfelt talks
Looking neighbors in the eye
These can be done if we try

While there might be no stopping change
Priorities can be rearranged
We will experience brighter days
If taking time to engage in play

We live in a world of extremes. We also live in a world of tweets, media overload and a constant flow of information. These dynamics have caused a number of conflicts as well as wonderful advances. As we hurry though life, taking a brief interlude for play might prove to be a powerful elixir.

Bob Houghtaling – father, husband, son and concerned citizen – is the director of the East Greenwich Drug Program.









 

 

Seal Comes to Water Street; Mystic Aquarium Is Monitoring

A harbor seal on the boat ramp near the shanties on Water Street Tuesday afternoon.

Do not touch or feed the seal, says Mystic Aquarium. 

East Greenwich, R.I. – The little guy appeared Monday in front of one of the shanties on Water Street south of Rhode Island Clam. A little more than 2 feet long, with a mottled gray-black coat, it was a the harbor seal. They are pretty common in Narragansett Bay this time of year but not so common hanging out near Water Street.

Needless to say, our new friend has caused a bit of a fuss, with passersby and those who’ve seen photos on social media stopping to say hello. On Tuesday, it was moving around, lifting its head, and occasionally opening its mouth. It did not appear to be in distress.

According to Allen Gammons, the seal was first seen by quahogger Joe Amato, who contacted Mystic Aquarium. Gammons said someone from the aquarium checked out the seal Monday and said it was OK and would return to the water without help. Sure enough, when the tide came in Monday afternoon, the seal swam off. Tuesday morning, it returned.

The wound is below the seal’s top fin.

Sarah Callan, animal rescue program assistant manager at Mystic Aquarium, said Tuesday volunteer first responders have been checking in on the seal multiple times since first alerted Monday. While the seal does have a wound on its side, Callan said it appears to be healing.

“They have pretty remarkable healing capabilities for a wound like that,” she said. “Unless we see other behaviors or symptoms, we’re kind of just monitoring him right now. We want to give an animal every chance to remain in the wild.”

Callan noted the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act actually prohibits people from getting closer than 150 feet of a mammal like the seal. She acknowledged that would be difficult with this particular seal, considering how close it is to Water Street.

The MMPA says people are not supposed to approach, harass, or harm any marine mammal. In the case of this particular seal pup – estimated to be around 6 weeks old – “any stress could slow the healing process,” said Callan. 

She noted that seals will haul out for days at a time and the fact that this seal has been going in and out of the water and is responsive means the aquarium will not intervene.

“Right now, we’re keeping a really close eye on him,” said Callan. “If rehabilitation is warranted, we will bring him in.” 

Harbor Seal Update 3/1/18: Our friend was picked up by Mystic Aquarium Wednesday and taken to a more secluded beach in Rhode Island, where it quickly disappeared into the water. Fingers crossed.

Here’s a list of do’s and don’ts from Save the Bay:

 Give the animal plenty of space. Crowding around stresses the animal and may cause it to act aggressively.

 Keep pets away from the stranded animal. Not only can they bite and cause injury to the animal, but may be injured by the animal. Diseases can also be transmitted between stranded animals and pets.

 Do not pour water on a seal, feed it, cover it or attempt to move it into the water. It is normal for seals to come ashore to rest – they often choose to be dry.

 Do not touch the animal. All marine mammals are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. This law makes it illegal to touch, disturb, feed or otherwise harass marine mammals without authorization. Seals of Narragansett Bay

 Be observant. Take note of any obvious signs of injury, the overall body condition of the animal (is it robust or emaciated?), identification tags, the presence of other animals (especially important with dolphins), the sea state, and any recognizable landmarks that will make it possible to locate the animal.

For more information about harbor seals, click here.


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EG Love Stories: Two Guys – One from Italy, One from Guatemala – And Pizza

Victor Vargas and John Illiano, pizza maker and owner respectively, of Frank and John’s Pizza on Main Street.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

It is “Old EG” heresy to suggest that there is any pizza as good as Frank and John’s From Italy pizza. It’s a thin-crust pie that glistens with oil and sometimes cooks a shade beyond brown. The occasional bubbles in the crust are the stuff of legend – even a lucky charm for some.

Quite simply, it’s delicious.

The Main Street mainstay started with two guys from Italy. That was the name originally – Two Guys from Italy – until the national Two Guys pizza chain threatened legal action. Frank Illiano and his nephew John Illiano – who came to the U.S. from Naples – changed the name to Frank and John’s From Italy. In 1972, John took over the restaurant. He may have aged over the decades but it’s awfully hard to tell. He remains the white-shirted, white-aproned, wise-cracking head of the kitchen.

The other guy behind the magic today at Frank and John’s is Victor Vargas, from Zacapa, Guatemala. Victor’s been working at the restaurant since 1995, when he got a job there washing dishes. Today, he’s the one usually working the pizza dough and making the pies. He waits tables too, if the need arises.

They have a playful, easy relationship born of years working side by side and, undoubtably, a little bit of luck when it comes to chemistry.

Victor’s wife, Carla, who often handles the front of the restaurant, says Victor doesn’t want to leave John alone.

Which means the old Two Guys still has two guys. It works.


This is one in a series of East Greenwich love stories we will be featuring during February in conjunction with our February matching donation drive. Find out more about the drive here. Or click on the Donate button below. And, if you have a love story you’d like to share – anything from a story about best friends or a child and their pet to love of a special place or business in East Greenwich – email egreenwichnews@gmail.com.

 





EG Love Stories: Mike and Laura Bottaro – Making It Work, Together

Mike and Laura Bottaro with their children, Dustin and Mia.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

Mike and Laura Bottaro make it look easy. They are a good looking couple with two beautiful children and a thriving business. You kind of want to hate them. But when you talk to them, they make it clear: marriage can be great but it’s also tough.

They met in law school at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Mike was in the library one day during third year – NOT his usual haunt, he emphasized – when he spied Laura.

“My scheme was to ask her to be my partner on the moot court team. I thought that was a pretty good way to get an in with her. She flatly rejected me,” Mike said.

But he kept asking. Finally, Mike called early one morning and asked Laura to lunch.

“I thought, well, if someone is persistent enough to call me first thing in the morning … I thought, yeah, I’ll give this a shot,” said Laura.

That first date led to another and another. Soon they were a couple.

“She liked to play pool and she liked to drink beer,” Mike said, smiling.

After graduation in 2000, they moved to Denver and started working.

“We’d meet for lunch downtown in our lawyer clothes, feeling grownup,” said Mike.

“It felt like we were playing dress up,” Laura said.

They were enjoying the young and unencumbered life. But after 9/11 and, later, when Mike’s mother began ill, they began to think seriously about moving closer to family. They ended up in Rhode Island but it took them a few more years to find East Greenwich. That happened in 2009. And suddenly they felt settled for the first time in Rhode Island.

“We bought a house, we had a child and we became part of the community,” said Laura.

Today they have two children, fourth grader Mia and second grader Dustin.

And they both work for the personal injury firm Mike founded in 2010, Bottaro Law Firm.

It’s a busy life so making time for each other has been key.

“I think what has worked in the last few years is being intentional about trying to spend time to talk,” said Mike. A little over a year ago, they started a Wednesday morning coffee hour just for them. At 5:30 a.m.

“We know midweek that we have space and the kids aren’t awake and it’s quiet,” Mike said.

They both make it clear, though: they are not perfect.

“We’re totally different people. When things are going well in our relationship, it’s pretty cool that we’re different people. But when things are not going very well, it’s also because we’re different people,” said Mike.

He said the book “The 5 Love Languages” has helped them to understand  how people give and receive love. What works for Mike, for instance, hearing, “You look great today!” doesn’t really work for Laura, who would much rather have Mike express his love by cleaning up after dinner.

They’ve found mentors in family but also through church. They are active members of Christ Church.

“I think one of the reasons we’ve endured so well is we’re both so determined,” said Laura. “Neither of us give up on anything. We just keep saying, we’re not going to give up.… When things aren’t perfect, you have to think about the long game. You can’t get caught up in the daily swings of when things are high or really low.”

She added, “You have to think about getting through and what the real ultimate goal is, which is our family and our love for each other and being together for the long term.”


This is one in a series of East Greenwich love stories we will be featuring during February in conjunction with our February matching donation drive. Find out more about the drive here. Or click on the Donate button below. And, if you have a love story you’d like to share – anything from a story about best friends or a child and their pet to love of a special place or business in East Greenwich – email egreenwichnews@gmail.com.

 





EG Love Stories: The Healing Power of Nature

Nature has always been magical for Wendy Fachon – sending messages just for her.

After her father died a few years ago, Fachon wrote a children’s book, “The Angel Heart,” about the flower more commonly known as bleeding heart. For Fachon, it’s an angel heart flower, not a bleeding heart. In the book, she strips the flower down to its basic heart shape, with petals that become fairy slippers. When all the petals are gone, what remains is a single “candle” that offers a redemptive holy light.

Nature is like that for Fachon.

“I feel closest to God – a higher power – when I am in nature,” she says. “That is my church in a way.” 

She sees things in nature that most of us walk right past. And she’s sure that if children’s eyes are open to the wonders of nature, they will be better off.

As she starts out in her tiny book called “The Resilient Butterfly,”

“Did you know that every creature
wants to be your favorite teacher?
They add drama and some mystery
to science and to natural history.”

Fachon started leading nature walks and teaching nature courses for children a few years back. When her son Neil was diagnosed with a deadly brain tumor in 2016, she brought her holistic approach to his illness, bringing the outside in – including moving lots of plants indoors – when he became too ill to go out and looking for healthful, healing nutrition.

Dean, Evie, Neil and Wendy Fachon in 2016.

Neil died a year ago Monday, at age 20, after living months longer than doctors originally said he would.

Wendy Fachon has spent the last many months writing, including that book about the resilient butterfly. It’s not hard to see echoes of Neil’s resilience in that little book, or his family’s for that matter.

Turn the last page of the booklet and Fachon’s message is clear. It reads, “Not The End.” 

Wendy said some East Greenwich children and their parents helped her plant daffodil bulbs behind the high school tennis court memorial bench last fall. Neil was an avid tennis player and a beloved member of the EGHS tennis team during his years as a student there. The bench was put there in Neil’s honor last summer.

“I look forward to seeing the flowers pop up as the tennis season gets underway,” she said.

You can learn more about Wendy Fachon here.  You can find out where to get “The Angel Heart” here.  


This is one in a series of East Greenwich love stories we will be featuring during February in conjunction with our February matching donation drive. Find out more about the drive here. Or click on the Donate button below. And, if you have a love story you’d like to share – anything from a story about best friends or a child and their pet to love of a special place or business in East Greenwich – email egreenwichnews@gmail.com.