Monday, May 12, 2008

Cavoli's Sports Bar and Trophy Room

This Wednesday, my column will feature some real Cleveland Goodfellas from the late 1970s and early 1980s. They used to come into Casablanca Restaurant where I worked any number of jobs when I was on summer break from college.

While I was researching the article, I ran into this image of the tiny bar that was in the basement of the Casablanca.

Seeing that picture was like opening the gates of my mind to a bevy of ghosts. The basement was creepy and old--and big--the little bar shown here only filled a portion of it. It was not well lit. Much of it housed hulking restaurant equipment and furniture.

I hated going down there. But the ice machine was in a dank corner, so I had to go down there a lot. I'd get the ice and high-tail it back upstairs.

When I worked there, the basement barroom looked much as it does in the photo, but it was rarely open. In its heyday, it was called the Sports Bar and Trophy Room. That's when the restaurant was still Cavoli's--a well-known place on Cleveland's west side.

Cavoli's evolved through the years and changed owners and names. I'm pretty sure additional characters were painted on the walls of the Sports Bar in an attempt to keep up with the times. But the little joint could apparently hold on for only so long. By the time I worked there, the downstairs club was all but defunct.

Stop back tomorrow for a link to the article that will unleash some of my dusty old Cleveland ghosts unto you. There will be other cool links as well. In the meantime, here's a scene from Goodfellas that sends chills through me. It reminds me of that basement bar. It reminds me of the real Goodfellas.

Photos courtesy of the Cleveland Memory Project.


Anonymous said...

i love it. ever since this came out in '91 i've been calling servers "Spider." In the book, they bury him right there, underneath the concrete, in the basement.

scorsese is some kind of god. yes he is.

Divana said...

I have been checking in for your column. Rmind me again, it's every second Wednesday?

Why do Italians have to be so...neanderthalish...?

I'm allowed to say this. I am Italian. haha

Anonymous said...

I heard this place has closed.
Cavoli is my last name.

Anonymous said...

My mother was a long time waitress at Cavoli's in the days it was owned and run by Joe Cavoli. The Indian and Yankee ballplayers used to go there after games. I worked there as a dishwasher in the late 60s.

vscarcio said...

My father and Joe were dear friends and paisans. In the mid 60's the Beatles were touring Cleveland. While here they were to have a private dinner at Cavoli's. Joe called my father asking if our family would enjoy sharing the experience. My father being an immigrant despised the long hair, their music and what they stood for. Along with it being a "school night" he promptly said... No! I am not sure my sister and I ever forgave him for that. I still have dreams of sitting at a barstool next to my drummer hero, Ringo.

say hi to Eric.

Erin O'Brien said...

Thanks, VS, for dropping in. I'll tell the Goat you said hello!

Erwin Wood said...

Back "in the day" I used to cook there. Back when the "Old Man' was still around.