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May 7, 2009

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In recession, business actually better than ever
Two years of hugs and kisses at Bacio, an Italian BYOB in Mt. Airy

A fresh perch filet special was moist and savory, pan-seared and blushing with fresh marinara sauce, redolent of garlic and sage. (Photos by Len Lear)

When Bacio Wholesome Italian Cucina, a BYOB, opened in March of 2007, the very first customer was John O’Connell, 9th Ward Democratic leader, who ushered in a party of five. Since that evening, O’Connell has become a frequent customer (“like family”) and Bacio’s biggest cheerleader.

“I think we are lucky to have Bacio right next to Chestnut Hill,” said O’Connell. “The food is great and very reasonably priced; it’s BYOB, and the guys who run it could not be any nicer. I talk it up a lot because I want Bacio to stay here.”

Owner Jay Saponaro, 48, a South Jersey native who has worked all of his adult life in the restaurant industry, was out of work in late 2006 because his previous employer, Bookbinder’s Seafood Restaurant, had gone out of business. One day he was driving to an appointment with Beth Anne Corr, an acupuncturist in Mt. Airy, when he spotted a “For Rent” sign in front of a vacant storefront at 311 W. Mt. Pleasant Ave. (It was previously home to the Mt. Pleasant Cafe, whose owners had left to open a luncheonette near Exton in Chester County.)



Hill artist’s new exhibit a tribute to John Updike

Chestnut Hill artist Anna Belle Loeb, a retired teacher and lawyer, has had her paintings exhibited at Woodmere Art Museum and elsewhere, but her first solo exhibit, “Rabbit Years,” is currently at the Pagus Gallery in Norristown through May 23.

As John Updike grew up in Berks County, Pennsylvania, where he would soon create his great series of “Rabbit” novels, Anna Belle Loeb was born over 1,000 miles away in Arkansas. Loeb’s life would eventually lead her to Updike’s old stomping ground and ultimately to the Pagus Gallery in Norristown, where she is currently exhibiting her new painting series called “Rabbit Years” that is dedicated to John Updike.

“The paintings do not themselves necessarily relate to Updike,” Loeb explained, “but when I finished the paintings, he had just died, and I was very moved by that. I have been reading his books my entire adult life, and he inspired me. He cared about the things I care about. I met him twice at book signings.”

Born in Little Rock in the 1940s, Loeb came into a world of civil unrest; schools in the South were still segregated, which would change in Little Rock years later after President Eisenhower called in the 101st Airborne to integrate Little Rock Central High School. Later, as a young adult, Loeb earned a degree in history from Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas.



Opera lovers, do not miss AVA’s version of ‘Lucia’

The Academy of Vocal Arts Opera Theater’s production of Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor is so admirable that it simply cannot be missed by any local opera lover worthy of the name. Under the musical direction of Christofer Macatsoris and the stage direction of Joshua Major, this AVA mounting reminds us all of the supremacy of Italian opera, the compositional mastery of Donizetti and the efficacy of AVA’s commitment to its historic mission of preparing young singers for professional careers.



How to end swine flu: scrap whole bloody meat industry

This is the real reason chickens cross the road. (Illustration by Zipora Schulz)

I don’t want to alarm you, but experts are warning of a possible combined epidemic of swine flu, bird flu and mad cow disease. The good news is you don’t have to stop eating pork, chicken or beef.

You see, the important thing is that we never stop doing what we’re doing. That’s exactly what the terrorists would like. Not that terrorists have anything to do with it — all the aforementioned diseases are caused by practices involved in raising animals for slaughter and consumption — but the terrorists would be happy anyway because they’re just impossibly contrary individuals.

All we need to do is find ways to cope with all of the havoc that we wreak. That’s how we’ve always dealt with problems that we created; we build fallout shelters rather than dismantle nuclear weapons, we surgically remove fat rather than eat less and exercise, and we look for cures for every type of disease rather than try to eliminate the cause of the disease.



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