STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
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The Keswick Village section of Glenside, Abington Township has itself another hotspot.
“People are tired of sports bars. They’re tired of TVs. They’re tired of chain restaurants.” That’s from Dino Kelly-Cataldi, co-owner of Dino’s Backstage, the new deluxe restaurant, bar and cabaret on Keswick Avenue.
Dino’s Backstage is like something out of the glamorous and sophisticated supper club scene of the 1940s and 1950s, when going out for dinner and a show was a civilized event that required getting dressed up.
“It’s a throwback as much as it is a throw-forward,” commented Kelly-Cataldi.
If you’re having a hard time visualizing what that was like, take a look at all the black and white photos decorating the walls — especially the one of Kelly-Cataldi’s mother out on the town with friends from church at Palumbo’s in South Philly in 1965. Johnny Mathis was performing that night.
*“She didn’t go out a whole lot, but when she did, she really got dressed up,” he recalled.
In the Celebrity Room there are pictures of classic movie idols, such as Cary Grant and Lana Turner.
Dino’s Backstage features four dining options — the dining room, at the bar, in the luxurious Celebrity Room where the cabaret shows take place, and outdoors.
Kelly-Cataldi’s husband, Michael Kelly-Cataldi, is the venue’s entertainment director, as well as one of the regular performers. “The joy for me is a lot of young people in their 20s are getting it,” he said.
That isn’t to say there hasn’t been some confusion since Dino’s opened quietly this summer. Dino Kelly-Cataldi reported that some mistook the “Backstage” to mean it was the backstage entrance of their next-door neighbor, the Keswick Theatre.
“There used to be a restaurant in Philadelphia years ago on Fourth Street called Backstage. (That restaurant’s name) had nothing to do with a theater,” he said.
There are also curious Keswick Theatre concert-goers waiting in line to enter the theater that discover that Dino’s isn’t really a place to get a quick bite to eat. Soon that’s going to change slightly, Dino said, with a special menu just for the Keswick Theatre crowd. The menu is still in development with executive chef Scott Howlett.
The owners strongly recommend that if you’re in town for an 8 p.m. concert at the Keswick, you should make reservations at Dino’s for no later than 6:45 at (215) 884-2000.
Dino described the food as “classic American cuisine” that would have been on the bill of fare of an establishment like this back in the day. For example, the appetizers include shrimp cocktail, crab cocktail and steamed clams. Among the entree selections are chicken Milanese, filet mignon and pepper crusted tuna. The cocktails are a mix of classics — the sidecar, the Moscow mule, the corpse reviver — and concoctions with retro-sounding names, like The Vesper and the Marlene Dietrich. Look it over yourself at www.dinosbackstage.com.
Besides Michael Kelly-Cataldi, the cast of Celebrity Room entertainers includes Paula Johns, The Tom Adams Trio, Eddie Bruce and others. These engaging dinner cabaret performers, Michael said, won’t blast your ears. “It’s been interesting because I’m having performers who sing, as opposed to singers. I don’t want someone who closes their eyes and shuts out the audience,” he said.
The co-president of the board of the Keswick Village Business Association, Michael described his cabaret act as “a roller coaster ride. I wanna make you laugh, I wanna make you cry, I wanna make you think, I wanna make you feel.”
Dino’s Backstage is across the street from a women’s accessories, gifts and home décor boutique that the couple run called Kelly-Cataldi HOME.