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Arts & Entertainment

Carmine’s Italian Deli and Cafe Reinvents the Concert Experience

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January 16, 2023

By W.B. King—

Putting a new spin on chicken soup for the soul, Carmine’s Italian Deli and Cafe, providing delicious fare in Elmsford for more than 20 years, now doubles as a live music venue — spotlighting established bands as well as giving breaks to up-and-coming performers.

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“I know it sounds crazy — a deli with music but it’s very different and something not happening anywhere in Westchester,” Music At THE DELI Promoter Joe Palombo told The Hudson Independent.

With 30 years of experience in sales and marketing for small and large companies, Palombo was puzzled when he first heard about the venue through a close friend who invited him to a performance not long ago.

“I just couldn’t get my head around what they were doing, so I didn’t go. I was picturing this little deli and maybe there was a garage where bands were jamming,” Palombo said of Carmine’s, a 2022 Best of Westchester winner (Westchester Magazine).

Eventually his friend convinced him to come down to hear the house band, The Surf, fronted by leader singer and deli owner Rob Venuti.

When Palombo arrived, he was presently surprised to hear top notch music being performed on a proper stage, complete with a professional sound and lighting system. “They were doing a few things…shows with Rob’s band, a comedy night and a Friday night open mic,” he recalled. “I retuned the following week and told Rob: ‘There is really something special here.”’

Venuti agreed, giving Palombo the green light to begin booking bands in the summer of 2022 — what Palombo called “the testing grounds.” And while he worked in the entertainment business for 13 years, he doesn’t play any instruments, but said he has an ear for good music and creating a scene.

“We are learning about the local bands and the marketplace in Westchester,” he said, adding that for now this is an unpaid, passion project. “Most venues are for-profit, and I’m not saying we want to lose money, but we give all the money [collected at the door] to the bands. We want musicians to know that this is the place where they can come to be treated correctly — we feed them, too.”

Preserve, Educate and Promote

The 2023 concert series kicks off on Jan. 21, with a “Southern Rock Jam” featuring Headfirst and FiloFox. The venue seats roughly 70 people. Reservations are recommended. Tickets are $15 day of the show and $10 in advance. Once inside, patrons are treated to an ever-changing menu expertly crafted by Venuti, complete with eclectic entrées, appetizers, wine, beer as well as traditional deli items like a turkey club.

“This isn’t your typical venue. The deli as a backdrop makes it so cool and so different. Arlene’s Grocery in New York City is sort of the vibe. We have candles on the tables and the menu is amazing,” Palombo said, adding that with vegetarian and vegan options there is something for everyone.

The shows usually have a local band coupled with a more established act, generally starting around 7 p.m. The evening concludes by 11 p.m. “This isn’t a bar or a place to get crazy,” he said. “It’s a place to chill, have fun and listen to great music, while eating delicious food.”

If an effort to establish inroads with younger musicians in the community, Music At THE DELI is working with a number of local organizations, including The Songwriters Club at White Plains High School, a program created by Dennis Polanco, which currently has about 70 members.

“Dennis is doing something different and important. He’s teaching kids to write their own music,” Palombo offered. “We want to give teens the opportunity to play in a venue in front of real people — paying gigs.”

Upcoming shows include Stone Flower, a Santana tribute, Funk for Your Life with Milo Z, Candy-O, a tribute to The Cars and a “Women Who Rock” night featuring Lady Picture Show, a female-fronted Stone Temple Pilots tribute. The supporting act for the latter performance (April 21, 2023) will feature female musicians from The Songwriters Club at White Plains High School.

Along with the regular Friday happy hours featuring a variety of entertainment and karaoke, Palombo said a number of exciting events are on tap, including the possibility of his pals from the celebrated rock band Living Colour performing their latest songs during an album release party.

“We are creating a musical hub and community with a goal to preserve, educate and promote the creativity, legacy and passion of music,” he said.

For ticket and menu information, visit: www.carminescatering.com.


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