Ghetto Music

After twenty years in San Miguel, coupled with my obscure travels around the world, not much surprises me. Even yesterday at Billa, on a morning run to get fresh bread for breakfast, I ran across Elverace in what appeared to be his wife’s lacy nightgown and I didn’t even look twice. He and his outfits are now a familiar feature in my life. I no longer need to hide behind the Bellini display in order to get a discreet good look.

Then I went to a neighborhood restaurant called Paradiso Perduto (Paradise Lost). The chef and owner Maurizio has curly, grey, shoulder length hair and stylish glasses. Like Elverace, he sometimes wears his pajamas in public, especially when he comes in late at night to check his kitchen. The first moment I saw him I knew I would be a regular at his place. (He was stirring a large copper pot of polenta in a floppy chef’s hat while drinking white wine.) Maurizio is an anarchist; his restaurant motto—“good fish at good prices.”


fried calamari

Frittura Mista


I popped in for some live jazz, a prosecco and plate of a frittura mista. The band was playing a style of music I had only heard once before–in Fiddler of the Roof. I asked the woman seated next to me what it was and she answered Klemzer—the traditional music of Eastern European Jews. Then she told me to be quiet…didn’t I know this was a concert?  Well, actually I knew it was a restaurant and bar, but noticing how she lovingly eyed the bassoon player as only a mother could, I followed her orders.


Venice Ghetto

Venice’s Ghetto


Many of the restaurant’s long wooden tables were filled with people from the nearby ghetto…as is The Ghetto*, the world’s first, which came into existence in 1516. I found out from Mama that the boys were local and their neighbors and relatives had come out to support them. Dressed in orthodox clothing, their tall black hats and ringed sideburns, as well as prayer shawls, were not your normal “hey, let’s go get a drink” attire.

But that’s not the story.


Origianl Klezmer musician?

Original Klezmer musician?


After one set of traditional music, the band began a rap session with a clarinet, flugelhorn, bassoon, “fiddle,” and what looked like a shiny black muffler with a keyboard on it.

But that’s still not the story.


Paradiso Perduto

Paradiso Perduto


Then an “elder” got up, climbed on stage, grabbed the microphone and started singing a prayer to a rap beat as the crowd of enthralled admirers started to dance, cheering him on as if he were Eminem. The elder waved his hands in the air, never missing a beat and the audience joined him. The entire restaurant was on its feet reciting Hebrew words of prey as the elder threw out phrases and waited for us to repeat them—many, including myself, having no an idea what they meant. The bass player was getting down and the elder getting funky.

Now, that’s the story…the something that shocked and surprised me.

Who knew??


*Venice’s Jewish Ghetto

On March 29th, 1516 the government of the Serenissima Repubblica (that would be Venice) instituted the first Ghetto of Europe. Jews were forced to live in a designated area, not able to leave from sunset to dawn. The Ghetto was closed by gates and guarded throughout the night. A new set of laws announced that Jews were only allowed to practice certain professions: medicine, Arab writings, money lending, (because Catholic religion forbade this practice), commerce and strazzariol or rag sellers—modernly translated to clothes salesmen. The Ghetto existed for more than 250 years, until Napoleon conquered Venice and finally opened and eliminated every gate in 1797. Jews were then free to live in other areas of the city.


Insider Tip #3: Monday night is jazz night at the Paradiso Perduto. It’s the place to be. Inside seating is almost impossible after 8:30 when the crowd spills out into the street. People pull up in their boats, run inside for wine and cichetti* then return to their vehicles to sit in the moonlight.

cichetti*– a general term for traditional Venetian snacks.

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2 Responses to “Ghetto Music”

  1. Babs Says:

    Woo hoo – I HOPE you’re influence by all these wonderful surprises and bring some of them back to San Miguel……….

  2. Ann N Says:

    Looking forward to reading about your next adventure – which I am sure you will have, if not having right now!

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