An avid hunter and fisherman, Steve thought a “sportsman club” would be fitting. He was shocked to walk into the restaurant the next day and find that his wife had hung his rifles and fishing rods from the ceiling. They are still in the restaurant today. Steve and Mary’s daughter, Marie Venturini-Damiani, grew up in the restaurant. She started as a bus girl and then became a waitress.
Steve was a larger-than-life figure. Many came in as much for the food and drink as to see Steve who survived not one, but two airplane crashes. On February 5, 1952, Steve was on a
National Airlines flight that had just taken off from Newark Airport headed for Miami where he was going to spend the week fishing. The plane crashed in Elizabeth killing 30. Although injured, Steve survived. He carried his friend, Charles Griffin, to safety and returned into the tangled remains of the airliner to help others. It took an explosion and severe head injury to stop him. Ironically, a few years later, Steve was in a prop plane headed to Cuba where he was to go fishing with Ernest Hemingway, and that plane went down. He survived yet again.
Hemingway wasn’t the only icon Steve fished with. Babe Ruth was a fishing buddy. Another Yankee he considered a friend was Billy Martin who visited the restaurant whenever his team was playing in the Bronx.
Marie took over for her dad when he went on his fishing and hunting expeditions. When she turned 21, Steve let her fill in for him as a bartender for the first time. Marie was a pioneer, as she was the first women to bartend in all of Bergen County. A girlfriend introduced her to a local drummer, Joe Damiani, and the two hit it off. When she was 27, they married. Not only did Joe marry into the family but he also “joined” the family by becoming a bartender, one of the best around. In 1987, Joe was inducted into the “Bartender Hall of Fame,” sponsored by Bartender Magazine.