a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Sunday, February 3, 2008

A burger and fresh carp

NORTH VERSAILLES, Pa. - Bill Balsamico was in a somber mood Saturday and so was that famous sign above his bar and restaurant, Casa D’Ice. Usually he posts his angry thoughts about the war in Iraq or immigration in bright lights outside his business, and sometimes they include obscenities below the special on the menu. That night, it indicated he was about to announce his support for an independent for president.

While talking to customers inside, Balsamico said he was bummed out to celebrate his 62nd birthday while a relative was in poor health. Usually, he blows out the candles with a live band. At the last minute Saturday, he settled for a disc jockey to entertain a handful of people who stopped by to sign a petition to support Pittsburgh native U.S. Rep. Ron Paul for president in advance of the Pennsylvania primary.

Balsimico gained national attention with his banter after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks prompted him to put his angry thoughts on his signs. Even the Washington Post sent a reporter two years ago to his establishment on Route 30 beside a Kmart. You couldn’t miss the building at night with its blue neon lights in the shapes of icicles dripping from the roof line.

For his youtube.com video, Balsamico read from a script, in a monotone voice, his suggestions for President Bush to return all troops from across the globe to stand guard at the U.S. border with Mexico and “protect our nation from within.” It's dead wrong for a Mexican woman to "jump a fence" to give birth and assure her child U.S. citizenship, Balsamico said, even though he traces his heritage to Italian immigrants.

When I stopped by, the conversation across the bar went from a dislike of career politicians to Balsamico boasting of drinking several cases of Corona beer and bottles of Sambuca during one of his Christmas parties before his wristwatch stopped dead. Yet, to everyone's surprise, his bitter heart kept beating.

He might as well keep drawing customers to the bar with those signs because his food doesn't make a bold statement. My hamburger and fries came plopped on a layer of tin foil spread across a plastic serving tray. The food wasn't so hot.


1 comment:

Brant said...

Sorry to hear about your bad hamburger experience. How can someone screw up a burger? It's not exactly the rocket science of cuisine. Not to give anyone a free ad, but if you're looking for a good burger, try the new Sonic on Route 19. The one I had there was darned tasty. Red Robin also makes a fine hamburger, in my opinion, and when it comes to food, you can usually trust the opinion of someone like me who is, um, body-shape challenged (formerly known, in less politically correct days, as fat).