Billy Joel – Scenes From An Italian Restaurant

I always liked this song. Billy Joel was inspired by the suite of songs on Abbey Road. It was never released as a single but has remained one of Joel’s best known songs. The song was on the album The Stranger which peaked at #2 in 1978.

The restaurant which inspired this song, since closed, was the Fontana di Trevi at 151 West 57th Street in New York City, right across from Carnegie Hall. Joel talked about the restaurant: “It was for the opera crowd, but the Italian food was really good. They didn’t really know who I was, which was fine with me, but sometimes you would have a hard time getting a table. Well, I went there when the tickets had gone on sale for my dates at Carnegie Hall, and the owner looks at me and he goes (in an Italian accent), ‘Heyyy, you’re that guy!’ And from then on, I was always able to get a good spot.”

From Songfacts

This song is about people who peaked too early: the popular jocks in class who went nowhere in life. Like most of Joel’s songs, he composed the music first, which in this case was inspired by The Beatles, specifically the suite of songs on their Abbey Road album where a few unfinished tunes were put together to create one coherent piece.

On an A&E special, Joel said he came up with the “Bottle of white bottle of red” line while he was dining at a restaurant and a waiter actually came up to him and said, “Bottle of white… bottle of red… perhaps a bottle of rosé instead?”

The “Things are okay with me these days…” part was an old piece of music he had written a long time before The Stranger album – he just changed the words around to update them. The third part of the song is an old song he had written called “The Ballad of Brenda and Eddie.”

Many towns on Joel’s stomping grounds of Long Island have a spot or field surrounded by trees called “The village green,” similar to the one he sings about here. Joel was in a gang (not a very rough one) in Levittown, Long Island called “The Parkway Green Gang.”

Joel outlined to USA Today how the Beatles inspired this song: “I had always admired the B-side of Abbey Road, which was essentially a bunch of songs strung together by (producer) George Martin. What happened was The Beatles didn’t have completely finished songs or wholly fleshed-out ideas, and George said, ‘What have you got?’ John said, ‘Well I got this,’ and Paul said, ‘I got that.’ They all sat around and went, ‘Hmm, we can put this together and that’ll fit in there.’ And that’s pretty much what I did.”

In a 2017 appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Joel ranked this #1 on his list of the top Billy Joel songs. He has also cited “New York State Of Mind” as his favorite.

After adding Mike DelGuidice to his touring band in 2013, Joel began leading into this song in concerts with DelGuidice singing Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma.” DelGuidice formed a popular Billy Joel tribute band called Big Shot, which get the attention of the real deal, who offered him a gig.

Scenes From An Italian Restaurant

A bottle of white, a bottle of red
Perhaps a bottle of rose instead
We’ll get a table near the street
In our old familiar place
You and I,face to face

A bottle of red, a bottle of white
It all depends upon your appetite
I’ll meet you any time you want
In our Italian Restaurant.

Things are okay with me these days
Got a good job, got a good office
Got a new wife, got a new life
And the family’s fine
We lost touch long ago
You lost weight I did not know
You could ever look so good after
So much time.

I remember those days hanging out
At the village green
Engineer boots, leather jackets
And tight blue jeans
Drop a dime in the box play the
Song about New Orleans
Cold beer, hot lights
My sweet romantic teenage nights

Brenda and Eddie were the
Popular steadys
And the king and the queen
Of the prom
Riding around with the car top
Down and the radio on.
Nobody looked any finer
Or was more of a hit at the
Parkway Diner
We never knew we could want more
Than that out of life
Surely Brenda and Eddie would
Always know how to survive.

Brenda and Eddy were still going
Steady in the summer of ’75
When they decided the marriage would
Be at the end of July
Everyone said they were crazy
“Brenda you know you’re much too lazy
Eddie could never afford to live that
Kind of life.”
But there we were wavin’ Brenda and
Eddie goodbye.

They got an apartment with deep
Pile carpet
And a couple of paintings from Sears
A big waterbed that they bought
With the bread
They had saved for a couple
Of years
They started to fight when the
Money got tight
And they just didn’t count on
The tears.

They lived for a while in a
Very nice style
But it’s always the same in the end
They got a divorce as a matter
Of course
And they parted the closest
Of friends
Then the king and the queen went
Back to the green
But you can never go back
There again.

Brenda and Eddie had had it
Already by the summer of ’75
From the high to the low to
The end of the show
For the rest of their lives
They couldn’t go back to
The greasers
The best they could do was
Pick up the pieces
We always knew they would both
Find a way to get by
That’s all I heard about
Brenda and Eddie
Can’t tell you more than I
Told you already
And here we are wavin’ Brenda
And Eddie goodbye.

A bottle of red, a bottle of white
Whatever kind of mood you’re in tonight
I’ll meet you anytime you want
In our Italian Restaurant.

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

27 thoughts on “Billy Joel – Scenes From An Italian Restaurant”

  1. The Stranger was a perfect pop album. I always thought he did better with these type of songs than he did when he tried to do rock and roll- like the Glass Houses album.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Yep I agree he sounded like he was trying to hard when he did the rock songs. A grade A pop singer/songwriter– C for his rock attempts. Didn’t seen natural.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Billy hated being labeled as a balladeer by critics and also despised it when his music was categorised as Pop instead of Rock. However, Billy would often sound either unnatural or contrived when being a rocker instead of his normal self. The bootleg(Greenvale) from May 6, 1977 at CW Post College on Long Island is the prefect source for Billy in his natural element before a home crowd being hitting the big time. I can’t recommend the bootleg Greenvale enough to fans of great music; it is still available on Amazon with a cover photo featuring Billy, Liberty DeVito, Richie Cannata, and the late-great Doug Stegmeyer.

        Liked by 4 people

  2. This classic song belongs in my Top Five Songs of Billy Joel list with “Summer, Highland Falls,” “Vienna,” “Until the Night,” and “Laura.” There is a bootleg on my iPod of Billy and his stellar band performing “Scenes” as a concert debut from May 6, 1977 at CW Post College on Long Island; the bootleg is called “Greenvale” in reference to the college town that was among the many that supported Billy’s career before the release of The Stranger with its huge success. In fact, the only stinker from the concert on 05/06/1977 was the unreleased version of “Just the Way You Are” that was musically trumped by his superior love songs such as “You’re My Home” and “She’s Got a Way” from the same night. However, the version of “Scenes” as a live debut with the small crowd’s incredibly enthusiastic response to an unknown song is the highlight from the concert at a time when Billy had a both a full head of hair and more respect for his band’s members than he did during the late 1980’s. I am still bothered by bassist Doug Stegmeyer’s suicide in 1995, as he was an integral part of Billy’s music from 1976 through 1986. Paul Haider, England

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Bootlegs are where you get the real artist at times…unvarnished and not touched up.
      I have read where he was close to his band at the beginning.
      Thank you for the great comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Very good song…he was a good observational writer as well as writer of more conventional love songs or pop ones. Not much by him I don’t like, but as you commented elsewhere this is a song forgotten by radio which is too bad.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yea that song would do it…but I cut him some slack because if I married Christine…I may have done some stupid things lol.


      1. Yes it is…I hate hate hate it. Hate is a strong word but that song is a channel turner.


  4. Just saw “William” perform at Coors Field in Denver. He killed this song. He’s 70 years old, and he nailed the entire 3-hour concert. I was so impressed. And, it’s funny how fans are divided on his vocal tone quality changes when he switches up the genre. With this song, he can go warm, mellow, and smooth. With his more upbeat songs, I actually applaud his ability to add gruff, rasp, and vibrato. It’s less redundant and fun to me. I dunno – different tastes. They displayed pictures of Florence on the big screen behind Billy when he was singing this one. It was epic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This song is like…dare I say it…a small mini opera…it’s my favorite Billy Joel song. He can sing about anything from a pop song to a harder rocker….

      Liked by 1 person

      1. His characters, love of NYC, and likable ego give him an edge over Elton for me (plus, he’s a way better piano player). I’m definitely a late bloomer with all sorts of music. I’m never a fan of current music, but I end up liking it later. Billy and now Bruce are my new go-tos.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I believe also being American and being able to relate more to his life experiences may help. He is a better piano player…I agree with that.
        I’m always late to the party on artists…I always end up liking someone later…I joke that if I was old enough to be in the Beatles generation…I would have liked them after they broke up in about…oh… 1972.

        Liked by 1 person

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