Archives For ralphie aversa

A few weeks ago while I was in Los Angeles for The GRAMMYs, I received a Facebook message from Mary Friona. She is from my hometown of Niagara Falls and was a reporter at the NBC affiliate in Buffalo, WGRZ. Mary now runs a website called “Totally Buffalo” which features people, places and events throughout Western New York. She occasionally will interview someone who works in or hails from the area and holds a unique job; I was honored when she reached out to see if I would participate.

There are definitely a few “frequently asked questions” in this one (people almost always inquire when first meeting me about my favorite and least-favorite interview) but there are also a few stories that I rarely-if-ever tell. Check out the post here!

I still can’t believe they spent five-and-a-half minutes in the middle of a four-hour radio show talking about my two fingers.

Okay, let me backup and explain.

Monday night I was searching through photos on my BlackBerry (go ahead, roll your eyes) and I came across this shot I took of the skyline when I was driving over the RFK Bridge Sunday. I had landed earlier at JFK from my weekend trip to Denver and was riding in a car back to Manhattan with a few friends.

I thought the photo might work well on the radio station’s Instagram and so I loaded it in to the app and started messing with the filters. I landed on a final product that for the most part, I was satisfied with.

“Most part” gets thrown in there because when I was done changing the settings, I noticed that the reflection of my index and middle finger, which I wrapped around the back of the phone to stabilize it, was now noticeable in the photo.

A photo posted by 95.5 PLJ (@955plj) on


Did it matter? Ultimately I naively thought that I was the only one who would notice it enough to detract from the cityscape. So I posted it, people started to like it and I continued on with my show.

Fast forward to Tuesday morning at 11 am. I woke up, looked at my phone and saw 8 missed calls. Every call was from either a private number (which the studio hotline comes up as) or Johnny on the Street.

Turns out that the reflection mattered, at least to Todd and Jayde. In the 8 am hour, right in the middle of the show and on a day when later that hour Ed Sheeran would join the program, the entire cast spent five-and-a-half minutes contemplating what was in the photo.

Jayde guessed a falafel before finally admitting that she thought it looked like “female genitalia.” Annie wondered if it was a fortune cookie. Johnny’s guess was along the lines of Jayde’s but then he went with lips. Monk and Todd joined in on that sentiment… perhaps wax, candy lips? No, too wide they concluded.

How would they really know that?


Anyways, Todd and the crew eventually settled on fingers… the kind that look like everything but fingers. After that, the discussion turned to whether or not I realized the reflection when I posted it.

“Nah I don’t even think he saw it,” Todd stated definitively.

I’ll tell you what I didn’t see: writing a 400 word blog post about a five-and-a-half minute conversation on the morning show about my two fingers.

I don’t need many excuses to book a weekend trip when the destination is a city I’ve never visited before. This proves exceptionally true if the city lies within a state that I haven’t been to.

Wait and a buddy is throwing his bachelor party there? Click. Click. Booked.

I took a long weekend ahead of Martin Luther King Jr. Day (which I’ll be working; usually the norm) to fly west to Denver, Colorado. I did not try a Coors; I did receive a first-class tour of the Breckenridge Brewery though in beautiful Breckenridge, Colorado. The town is apparently a hot spot for skiing as well but I wouldn’t know; I didn’t ski.


I did try many of the great beers that Breckenridge has to offer. The Agave Wheat, made with all natural agave syrup, was my favorite. It’s lighter as far as craft brews go so it’s a solid choice when you’re thinking of having a few (enjoy responsibly, of course). The Vanilla Porter was heavier but tastier. And the Mango Mosaic Pale Ale had a nice well, twist to it.

My Friday night capped off with dinner at the brewery’s adjacent restaurant before a couple of Ubers took the party back to downtown Denver. I stayed at the Magnolia, a nice boutique hotel that is within walking distance to most of the hip spots in the area – including Fluid, a new coffee bar that opened up right outside and served up a solid pour to kick off my Saturday morning ahead of a 3 mile run.

Thankfully during my less-than-48 hour trip I learned that there are a number of different neighborhoods in Denver worth exploring. Situated south of the Capitol Building in the Capitol Hill section of town is an awesome vegan restaurant called City O’ City. Google describes it as “bohemian,” I would use “earthy” along with “delicious.” The cafe has a couple of great characteristics, one being that its brunch menu can be ordered with or without meat and dairy. For example if I were to bring my parents we could all order the city breakfast; they would just order their eggs normally while I’d ask for scrambled tofu instead.

None of the furniture or mugs match, which adds a certain type of homeliness to the ambiance. Our server was more than patient as I weighed my many food options; I had never been able to choose between so many vegan brunch dishes! I went with the tempeh bacon hash, and the Bloody Marys and coffees I drank paired wonderfully with it.

Oh, I should also mention that I rolled down there with Scott Patrick! I usually see Scott when he visits the city so it was nice to catch up in his neck of the woods.

A photo posted by Ralphie Aversa (@ralphieaversa) on


I rejoined the bachelor party at a restaurant downtown called Baur’s. Most guys went with brunch items and I of course skipped right to the Baur’s signature Bloody Mary, a homemade mix garnished with fresh mozzarella, bacon and olives… for the win!

In between my stop at Baur’s and Blake Street Tavern to watch the first half of the Syracuse/Boston College game, I did stop inside a dispensary. I left thinking how well-done the whole operation is, from the moment you step in through check-out. The staff is thorough and helpful; the environment is clean and welcoming.

And following a Saturday night that included copious amounts of pizza, beer and playoff football, I left Denver thinking those same thoughts about the city and the people who live there.

So I was eating brunch on Wednesday with my friend and long-time show contributor Jordi Lippe at one of my favorite restaurants in the city, the West Village’s Monument Lane.

Sorry but I need to pause this story for a second: a colleague gave me grief when I was telling him this because apparently “brunch” is only a weekend thing. My definition of brunch is breakfast food between 11 am and 3 pm, regardless of the day. Monument Lane has excellent everything and their Breakfast Bowl with poached eggs, barley, squash, red onion, radish and parsley-garlic pesto hit the spot.

Anyways, I look up from my coffee and I see a familiar face strolling down the street, just kind of looking around and smiling; taking it all in.

It was Andy Cohen! He was walking his dog. We made eye-contact, offered a quick nod of the head, and continued about with our business.

What struck me the most about this “celebrity sighting” (which by the way, despite my profession, I am terrible at in the city), is just how happy Cohen looked. Granted it was a relatively nice day outside; I’ll take 40 degrees and clear any day of the week in January. But still, it was nice to see a public figure enjoying a rather normal activity with no one bugging him.

Of course, I took to Twitter after Jordi and I parted ways to post, “I want to feel as happy today as @Andy looked when I saw him walking his dog just now.”

Cohen responded: “my moment of zen!”

And if Cohen, who juggles his reality TV empire at Bravo, his talk show, his satellite radio station and numerous other ventures, can make time for that moment then so can we.

My first trip of 2017 involved both people and places that I am quite fond of along with a method of transportation that I find very enjoyable.

For me, an outing on Amtrak that is four hours or less is one of the best ways to travel. You don’t have to deal with TSA, the departure and drop-off in the city is right below the radio station, the ticket is usually relatively inexpensive and the trip is pretty comfortable. Amtrak offers decent Wi-Fi free-of-charge, you’re allowed multiple carry-on baggage items and it’s not a hassle to bring food or drink with you on the train, especially given that you’re departing from Penn Station (Don Pepi’s is my go-to and in my opinion, makes one of the best quintessential NY Deli sandwiches in the city).

With that, I grabbed my normal order (2 eggs on a wrap, prosciutto and mozzarella on a roll, bottle of water, small coffee) and walked over to check-in. Amtrak offers e-tickets via an app but I opted for the antiquated paper ticket. Thanks to a complimentary upgrade, I rode in business class on the trip; not the same as a first class plane upgrade. The seats are a bit bigger and more comfortable but not measurably more than coach. You also receive free non-alcoholic beverages with the upgrade, a note I found out after I made my purchase at Don Pepi’s.

My itinerary started at Penn and ended for Friday in New London, Connecticut. Then I hopped a ride to Mohegan Sun in Uncasville to spend the evening, see a few old friends and naturally, lose a bit of money. To be honest, the only thing I left the property upset about was that for my second consecutive trip, I failed to dine at Todd English’s Tuscany, my favorite restaurant in the resort.

Peak-boughieness right now on this blog.

Caught a Connecticut vibe this weekend. @mohegansun, the real MVP.

A photo posted by Ralphie Aversa (@ralphieaversa) on


Saturday a car trudged through the snow and brought me back to the train station, where I rode Amtrak up to the Kingston, Rhode Island station. An Uber brought me across the Pell Bridge to Newport where Cumulus Media was having its annual holiday party.

This party is fantastic for a number of reasons: it’s scheduled after the craziness of the holiday season, it’s held in the Newport Marriott which is gorgeous (just like the rest of that beautiful town), the food is delicious (I love seafood) and most importantly, the crowd is lovely.


A different Uber brought me back to the train station on Sunday morning and I encountered perhaps the most New England Uber experience ever. It had stopped snowing at this point but there is almost no one on the roads; some areas are plowed more than others. I notice there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts on the way and I could really go for one of their coffees (especially given the alternative was to buy one aboard the train; no offense Amtrak). I ask the driver if he’ll stop and he obliges. I then inquire if he wants anything.

“Yeah, you know what? I could go for a coffee,” he responded. “Medium dark, no sugar. Team work, getting the job done.”

You’re damn right. And just like the other people, places and methods of transportation I encountered over the weekend, what’s not to enjoy about that?

I rang in the New Year in Times Square. Just two nights later, my Father and I stepped on to the ice after the Sabres beat the Rangers inside Madison Square Garden.

Yeah 2017 is off to a pretty solid start.

So one of my Dad’s good friends from back home in Niagara Falls is this guy named Ron DeFazio. Ron is a little older than Ralph Sr. and the owner of my Dad’s go-to watering hole, a venerable spot called Stadium Grill on Hyde Park Boulevard. Now even though he lives and works in Western New York, Mr. D is a life-long New York Rangers fan.

And he’s never been to Madison Square Garden. Period. Not even for a non-hockey event.

A few months ago, my Dad and his buddies were at the bar and they decided that it was time for Mr. D to see the Blueshirts on Broadway, especially with Ralph Jr. (me) working literally above MSG.


I made a few calls and scored us tickets to see the Rangers, who conveniently enough were playing the Sabres on January 3. The men booked their travel accommodations and those few months passed in seemingly a few days; next thing you know I’m hanging out with my Dad, my cousin Mike Hooper, Paul Parise and Mr. D inside Smith’s in Hell’s Kitchen. We did a bit of bar-hopping on Monday night with stops at Rudy’s and Jimmy’s Corner. Then on Tuesday, we started off the evening with happy hour at the Oyster Bar followed by a beer at Stout, a tour of the radio station and then a trip downstairs to The World’s Most Famous Arena.


Thanks to my friends at MSG Networks we were able to get Mr. D’s name on Gardenvision during the first period. Then my friend Nicole hooked up this once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity after the game.

The Sabres ended up beating the Rangers to Mr. D’s chagrin but regardless, it turned out to be a trip that none of us will ever forget.

Took me what, almost 10 years? But I finally figured it out. When I return home to visit family in Western New York for Christmas, I should stick around for about four nights.

Here was my issue in years past: I would only visit my parents back in Niagara Falls about three times a year. Also, I would usually end up with a ton of vacation to use before the end of the year otherwise it would be lost. So between not wanting to give up too much of my free days (I would inevitably lose some anyways) and falling victim to my mother’s guilt trip, I would stay home around Christmas for close to a week.

And by the sixth or seventh day, I would end up singing the same tune: next year, I can’t stay home for this long. I love my family but hanging out back in the house I grew up in just makes me a bit stir-crazy.

So this year I switched it up. First, I spread out my remaining vacation days over the final month-and-a-half of the year to ensure that I wouldn’t lose any. This also gave me a bunch of long weekends and quite frankly, one of my most enjoyable holiday seasons in recent memory. Then, I scheduled my trip to WNY around Christmas but made sure to just give myself enough time to see my family and attend an extra event or two, nothing more.

Mission accomplished. Saw all of my family plus a bunch of my friends, attended a few holiday parties, visited Orchard Park to watch my Bills lose to the Dolphins (don’t get me started) and drank a few Labatt Blue Lights in the process.

A photo posted by Ralphie Aversa (@ralphieaversa) on


Other food highlights included my favorite meal of the year: Christmas Eve’s Feast of the Seven Fishes and a final night pit-stop to GoodFellas’s in Niagara Falls for my favorite pizza and wings.

Of course the most important part of the trip was my time at home. Almost as enjoyable was leaving Niagara Falls and not thinking that next year I should spend any less time there.

The following was written while I waited Sunday morning for my plane leaving Syracuse and headed to JFK to be de-iced. I had missed my flight to LaGuardia by about 60 seconds; thankfully the saints that work for Delta got me on the next flight to the city which thankfully was departing from the gate next door a few minutes after. It was originally posted to my Instagram and this version has been edited lightly for grammar and spelling.

Greetings from my ✈ back to the city. Let me tell you about my past 30 hours.

I snapped this selfie on AirTrain headed to JFK Saturday morning. The plan was to take-off at 9:30, land around 10:15 and make the noon tip of yesterday’s Syracuse/Georgetown game at the Dome. My cousin Anthony (who for those that don’t know is my best friend; I have the honor of standing as his best man next year when he takes the ole plunge) was riding the train in from Niagara Falls. He had never visited the Cuse so we were going to do it up – tickets at the game (thanks L) followed by a tour de force through my old stomping grounds: Marshall Street, Chuck’s, Faegan’s, Varsity – the whole thing.

And then my flight was delayed until it was canceled. Anthony ended up rolling to the Dome and subsequent venerable campus locations solo. I caught the first few minutes of the game from the bar at the LIRR Jamaica station (and yes they’ll make your cocktail to-go). Then I hopped back on a train towards Penn and checked the Amtrak schedule. There was a 1:20 Empire Service departure that could get me to ‘Cuse by 6:40. Should I go?

Stupid question.

I grabbed another cocktail from the Friday’s in Penn (no they will not make it to-go) and hopped aboard.
I had a great night in Syracuse. Ate dinner at an awesome spot called The York. Ran in to an old friend and his wife. Got to relive a bit of my college days with my best friend.

If I’ve learned anything this year it’s that family and friends have to come first in my life. It’s cliché but true and sadly, I haven’t always had my priorities straight. But I’m thankful for those around me who have always understood and supported me regardless.

I’m also thankful that I realized this now as opposed to never because that would be unfortunate… much more so than a canceled flight.

Bruno Mars responding to James Corden’s inquiry about his tour rider during “Carpool Karaoke” was hilarious but upon further review, far from revealing, at least at the moment.

“Some booze, some water,” the “24K Magic” singer first told Corden about what he needs in his dressing room prior to a concert. Mars then offered up a thoughtful pause before adding, “Wet wipes.”

“All Bruno Mars needs is some wine and some wet wipes,” the TV host joked while Mars cracked that the line could provide the inspiration for his next album, to which they then both agreed could be massive.

“Pop the cork and wipe down!” Corden quickly sang, to the tune of “Don’t believe me, just watch!” from “Uptown Funk.” And the host wasn’t finished, freestyling, “Stop! Wait a minute! Wipe my face, put some liquor with it!” as Mars beatboxed the Mark Ronson-produced beat.

The interaction, its likes which have become Corden’s trademark on the segment, was instant TV and viral video gold. However following a search for a leaked Bruno Mars rider online, two points became apparent: the rider has never leaked and Mars talked about wanting wet wipes and wine backstage in a 2013 clip posted on TMZ’s website.

If anything, credit Mars with consistency… and of course, cleanliness. Plus fast forward a few years, and who knows, you might even be able to credit Corden with the singer’s next LP title.

There are not a lot of photos from my trip last weekend and with good reason… or rather, reasons.

It’s funny because just today I was having a conversation with a colleague that centered around one of the causes; she asked me why I haven’t been as active lately on Snapchat. The app kind of runs clunky on my phone (yes, still the Android-driven BlackBerry Priv) but more so than that, I’m just trying to be more in the moment. And last weekend, which of course was another of the long variety for me, was about that: not worrying about documenting every little thing I did and instead just trying to enjoy the time I spent with friends.

For those wondering, that time was spent back in Northeastern Pennsylvania, a place I hadn’t visited since I threw out the first pitch at the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders game (Triple-A affiliate of my New York Yankees and defending National Champions). I showed up on Friday, hit up Wegmans to stock my buddy’s apartment with food for the weekend and then took an Uber downtown to a new restaurant called Terra Preta. The spot is very progressive for Scranton: craft cocktails, farm-to-table menu items and a gallery for local artists to showcase and sell work. I ended up purchasing this piece.


And if you know me and my love of Coldplay, you understand why. But also, I wanted to support a local artist and establishment. In cities all across the country, people want change but they don’t want anything to stay the same. You can’t complain that “there’s nothing cool to do” in an area but then when new, cool things open up simply refrain from supporting them.

We ended up visiting Terra Preta twice along with some other favorites of mine in the area: The Bog, Ale Mary’s and State Street Grill. There also may have been a stop at Sheetz and a trip or more to Mohegan Sun Pocono where I might have walked out ahead after a few hours of Blackjack.

But hey, no phones allowed at the tables so definitely no photos.