Archives For Upper West Side

In what has become an annual tradition for me, I spent one October morning in my neighborhood on the Upper West Side with The Radio City Rockettes as they prepared for this year’s Christmas Spectacular, which kicks off November 11. Grab your tickets now here!

Day drinking, an extra-innings Yankees game and Guns N’ Roses at MetLife Stadium were just a few of the highlights from an action-packed weekend in which I commiserated with friends new and old.

My buddy Danny was in town visiting; he didn’t arrive until almost 2 in the morning. Thankfully it didn’t really matter that much because I work nights anyways and I happen to live in… the city that doesn’t sleep. There are bars and even kitchens open until 4 a.m. (or later in the case of the latter) throughout my neighborhood, so we settled in to one for some late-night grub and libations and ended up calling it a night… well, let’s just say the sun was rising when we finally went to bed.

And that was a common theme throughout the weekend.

After a quick breakfast on Saturday, we hopped in an Uber and headed to NoHo where I visited my friends at John Varvatos’ pop-up shop. They were hosting a Guns N’ Roses pop-up shop for the two shows in East Rutherford. Danny and I grabbed a couple of GNR shirts and made our way over to the 4 train, riding uptown to the Bronx.

The Yankees were hosting the Giants in the second of a three-game series and it was Military Appreciation Day at the Stadium. In addition to the ceremonies, the team gave away camouflage Yankees hat to the first 18,000 fans over the age of 21 (the cap was sponsored by Budweiser).


We snagged a few Bloody Marys and walked over to our seats in the bleachers; section 203 to be exact. The “Bleachers Creatures” section was far from full capacity but we did our best to assist in Roll Call (wherein the Creatures chant each name of the Yankees infield and outfield until they acknowledge the fans).

Then we sat. And sat. And sat. After a disappointing 12 innings, the Yankees were handed a brutal 2-1 loss. But, we made some friends who were visiting the Stadium for the first time via… Australia! So we felt it our obligation to at least bring them to Stan’s for a beer so they could completely their quintessential American baseball outing.

Saturday night was spent back in my neighborhood and let’s just say Sunday was definitely a sleep-in day. But even with waking up in the afternoon, we still got in a run before showering and meeting a few of my friends for drinks at a local watering hole nearby. Then we walked to the 1 and got off at Penn Station. Next stop: NJ Transit to the Meadowlands, via a transfer in scenic Secaucus. Lenny Kravitz took the stage around 8:30. Guns N’ Roses followed around 9:45.

Here’s what I thought of the show:

Believe it or not, but there was a Sunday night cap on our return trip to Penn: a walk to Times Square and a few rounds at the classic Jimmy’s Corner. Jimmy was a “corner guy” in boxing; worked with all of the big names. He’s owned this little gem forever and it is the only reason why anyone should want to go to Times Square.

A photo posted by Ralphie Aversa (@ralphieaversa) on


Given my weekend, I slept in Monday too. But it was all worth it. Besides, when will I get to see Axl Rose and Slash on stage together again?

Probably not in this lifetime.

Some news and notes from my fourth consecutive Tony Awards red carpet:

– There was a major scene change this year as the biggest night on Broadway moved uptown from 6th Avenue to… Broadway! The Tony’s were held at the venerable Beacon Theatre, the sister-venue of previous host Radio City Music Hall. Both buildings are managed by the Madison Square Garden Company. Instead of wrapping around the venue, this year’s red carpet simply stretched down two blocks from the front entrance of the theatre.

– It didn’t matter if you were Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr. or the guy in charge of lighting… if you were a part of the hit musical “Hamilton,” everyone wanted to talk to you. The production nabbed 16 nominations in 13 categories and took home 11 trophies. Tickets are impossible to come by unless you’re willing to refinance your house. Alex Lacamoire, who won the Tony for Best Orchestrations thanks to the musical based on Alexander Hamilton, smiled when I asked about the amount of ticket requests he has received.
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“That’s wonderful because that means people want to see our show,” he said, in perhaps one of the bigger understatements of the evening. “So hey, no complaints.”

– Certainly Odom Jr. had zero complaints as he beat out his co-star Miranda for the Lead Actor in a Musical category. When I asked Odom if he and Miranda made a friendly wager over the Tony prior to the award show, he found the question so hilarious that he nearly spit out the water he was sipping.

– This was a first: two reporters next to me were hungry, so they decided to walk to a pizzeria, pick up a pie and bring the entire box, paper plates included, back to the red carpet. At least they shared (I did not indulge but they were very kind to offer).

– Neil Patrick Harris shouted, “Work!” when I asked him what inspired his new, shorter haircut. I was tempted to simply tell you that I asked him what his favorite Rihanna song was.

– Nice to see Sara Bareilles on the carpet; she said hello to me before her publicist dragged her inside so she wouldn’t miss the award ceremony. It has been a wonderful Broadway debut for the pop star: her musical “Waitress” nabbed four Tony nods including Best Musical and Best Original Score, which of course was penned by Bareilles herself.

– Of course, there are a lot of artists from all genres of entertainment on and/or involved with Broadway these days. The great Andrew Lloyd Webber offered an interesting response when I asked him about this.

“Providing that you’ve got the right people for the right roles, if that’s what you’re asking me, and they’re cast for the right reasons… that’s great,” the seven-time Tony Award winner, whose musical adaptation of “School of Rock” received multiple nominations, told me. “It really doesn’t matter who you have in a show. Like, ‘School of Rock’ doesn’t have a star, but at the same time it easily could. I mean, James Corden wouldn’t be bad in ‘School of Rock,’ would he?”

I think a number of factors contributed to it: missing Opening Day, the excitement for the new season, the fact that I’m single and my renewed quest at constantly trying new things, pushing myself outside of my comfort zone.

For the second straight weekend, I attended two baseball games in two days at Yankee Stadium. Last weekend also marked consecutive Saturdays that I decided to jog the 4.3 miles from my apartment to the ballpark in the Bronx. I traveled my now normal route, which takes me up Columbus in to Harlem, over the Macombs Dam Bridge and through to The House That George Built.

Saturday was fun for a couple of reasons. For starters, my ticket was in 203, where the infamous Bleacher Creatures sit. The fans are equal parts intelligent and raucous when it comes to supporting the Yanks. Of course, they also are known for a ritual called “Roll Call.” The section starts with the Center Fielder, then moves left and right before going around the infield, starting with the First Baseman.

In each instance, the section chants the players’ name until he acknowledges the section. The signal from the field can be as subtle as a quick point with the glove hand (Chase Headley) to the more deliberate stop-turn-muscle flex (Brett Gardner).

Speaking of Gardy, his bottom-of-the-ninth walk-off home run certainly sent me home happy. OK, it didn’t send me home. It sent me to Stan’s on River Ave. to meet my friend Kathryn and watch as her Rangers were eliminated in the playoffs by the Penguins.


I walked back over the bridge, snapped a beautiful photo of the Stadium, and hailed a yellow cab home. After a quick shower, I met my buddy Ryan at the nearby Boat Basin Café, marking my first visit to the watering hole and first sunset seen there of the season.


On Sunday I entertained Ryan along with my friend Craig and his better half Ilana at my apartment for a little “pre-game” before we took the subway back uptown. Once there, we headed to the now too-familiar Stan’s to meet a bunch of people (including my man John Foxx) for a few beverages and then back inside Yankee Stadium.


This game went so far south so quickly that I never even made it to my seat. I did discover that Yankee Stadium has a rooftop bar. It was my first and last appearance there.

Sunday wrapped with me, John and his wife grabbing dinner in our hood at a restaurant I’ve been dying to try since I moved here: Vai. I’d say it was worth the wait but I shouldn’t have waited so long in the first place!

With DJ Khaled in New York ahead of a “major announcement” Monday (me thinks it might have something to do with the Billboard Music Awards finalists reveal on “Good Morning America”), let me drop two major keys on you from my weekend.

First key came Friday night. I signed off the radio after a show that I was pretty happy with, thus I was feeling good. But I decided not to go out (major key alert!). Instead I grabbed food from my bodega, strolled in to my apartment and caught up on work. I needed to do this for a plethora of reasons: didn’t feel like spending money on drinks, was too behind on said work and have too busy of a week ahead.


The second key came throughout the weekend: no traveling (major key alert!)! After spending the past three weekends in the air (Buffalo, Florida, Syracuse) I kept it local and it felt fantastic. The farthest I traveled was to Newark, where I caught the Devils’ final home game of the season. Prudential Center is a favorite venue of mine and it was nice to see Jersey go out with a win – not to mention veteran Patrick Elias had himself quite a game.

My sleep schedule was a bit off Sunday but that did not prevent me from running errands, finally getting a bagel from Upper West Side-institution Barney Greengrass (whole wheat toasted with Sturgeon, capers, tomato, scallion cream cheese) and knocking out a 5.6 mile run in Central Park.


Even made a rare-appearance at Whole Foods to search for wine (grabbed a Chianti), McClure’s Bloody Mary Mix (out of stock) and naturally a wife (no luck).

Hey, there’s always next weekend. And thankfully, I’ll be spending it right here.

I walked out of my apartment on the Upper West Side to a SUV that had driven from Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. Melissa, who works for the casino’s PR department and Angela “Big Ang” Raiola traveled from Uncasville to pick me up. We were headed to Resorts Casino in Atlantic City, a property that Mohegan manages. The casino booked the “Mob Wives” star for a series of “Reality Check” events, and I was tapped to host the question-and-answer sessions in Atlantic City as well as Mohegan Sun Pocono in Wilkes Barre.

When I hopped in to the car, I immediately noticed one person missing: Ang. She had walked across the street to my bodega for a pack of cigarettes. On the way back, a few fans stopped her for photos, and she happily obliged.

“So you live around here?” she asked me once we hit the road. I mentioned that I had been at my apartment for at the time, a little over a year. “Nice neighborhood. A lot of good brunch spots.”

There are many things I’ll never forget about that weekend; hearing Ang, in that trademark Staten Island drawl of hers, offer up Yelp-like reviews of the brunch options on the Upper West Side is certainly one of them.

Another was during the trip down I-95 to AC when we diverted to a rest stop for food. I wasn’t too hungry so I just grabbed a coffee; Ang wanted to hit up Auntie Anne’s. We finished our purchases and head back in to the car. Ang bought pretzel dippers with sauce. And if you know me and my eating habits, you know they usually don’t involve pretzel dippers, with or without the sauce.

“Honey you want one?” asked Ang. I politely declined. I could tell that she was a little annoyed but we continued making small talk.

She asked two more times before finally offering up a look that is all-too-familiar to fans of her show.

“No, really. Have one.”

Before I could respond the pretzels were right in front of my face.

If you’re like me and you grew up in an Italian-American household, you’re probably having flashbacks and rightfully so. Ang was a tough but loving mother from Staten Island; not one to mince words and always making sure those around her were taken care of.
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And like any good Italian mother, if she offered food, you’d better accept.

Despite our pit stop, we arrived in Atlantic City with time to spare, so we headed over to the outlets that are a stone’s throw from the boardwalk. Yes, I went shopping with Ang. She was looking for clothes to buy her grandkids (always taking care of others); I was just happy to spot H&M.

Being out in public with Ang was an experience in itself. It didn’t matter whether it was a bar, nightclub, store or open-air shopping center: the woman always became the center of attention regardless if she was seeking it or not. Not only did everyone know who Ang was, but everyone felt like they knew Ang. She was as authentic as they come, especially for reality TV, and that’s what endeared her to so many fans.

“Ooh look at you! You made out!” she exclaimed when she saw the amount of clothes that I purchased. Of course, Ang had accumulated a few bags herself.

The event in Atlantic City went well and the next day we took off for Wilkes Barre. Another part of the weekend that’s unforgettable: Ang was always on time. She enjoyed herself, but she knew that we were there to work too.

The trip from AC to Northeastern Pennsylvania was a long one. Traffic on a side road the driver took was brutal, and by that point in the weekend, Ang had grown a bit tired. We made it to Mohegan Sun Pocono just in time for the appearance and of course, it was the best of the weekend. Ang was in great spirits on stage, trading barbs with me and the crowd while sipping on an alcoholic beverage; it was Cinco de Mayo after all.

“I’m not here for a long time; I’m here for a good time,” she said during our chat at MS Pocono, one of the last quotes she offered up before we wrapped.

I surely won’t forget that either. She truly was one-of-a-kind and someone who lived life on her terms. Ang – thanks for the memories, and the pretzel dippers.

In episode number three of “2 Slices & A Story,” actor Zach McGowan reminisces about his days growing up on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Fun fact: McGowan’s dad owned a bar on 76th and Broadway.

Did Winter Storm Jonas slow me down last weekend? You’re talking to someone who grew up in Western New York and went to school at Syracuse University. A few scenes from Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

A photo posted by Ralphie Aversa (@ralphieaversa) on


And the snow was far from finished when I snapped that Saturday afternoon. By Saturday evening, people were literally sledding down Amsterdam.


On Monday, the cleanup struggle was still real.

New York City-born actor Zach McGowan stopped by ahead of a few big premieres: Season 3 of The CW’s show “The 100,” which he has an arc on and Season 3 of Starz’s hit “Black Sails” – a show he has been on since the start. McGowan talked about landing both roles and growing up during the 80’s on the Upper West Side.