The Tomato Heist & Really Tough Love

Joey Giamano’s dad owned Giamano’s Pizza and Bar. A warehouse separated Giamano’s Pizza and Bar from the tenement building where I lived. You’re probably wondering where is Ray going with this boyhood story – you in the last row, turn your iPad off, quit staring at your iPhone.

It’s Joey’s story. Joey and I are the same age – that is, if Joey’s alive. Chances 60-40 Joey’s not with us any longer. Joey never went by Joey. He was always Joey G. I believe he started using Joey G because he couldn’t spell his last name. He told me once, it had too many vowels. He goes, “You know it like the stuff that makes you go to the bathroom.”

I said, “You’re talking bowels or vowels?”

Joey G said, “Bowels, vowels it’s all the same.”

Now you must be getting an inkling of Joey’s intellect.

Here’s where it started to go wrong for Joey. My salvation was the grace of God and a dad who, after he gave me tough love (that’s what they call it these days); except it wasn’t the kind of tough love they talk about these days. It was really, really, really tough love. Lesson delivered. Lesson received. Oh my, was it ever received. I think it still hurts.

One lazy July afternoon, Joey and I were tossing rocks at a telephone poll in front of Giamano’s Pizza & Bar – this is what kids did before the Internet. It was harmless fun until a rock accidentally hit a passing car. Throwing rocks helped me to … did you think I was going to say become a pitcher? No, they help me to think that there had to be more to life.

Well, Joey G’s dad, Rocco Giamano, opens the door. I never saw Rocco without a full white apron with sauce stains. He calls Joey G, and said, “Joey G, we’re running short of fresh tomatoes. I want you to go to the store (it was 50 yards down the street) and get me a basket full. Tell the Beak to put it on my tab.” The Beak was Aldo

He calls to Joey G, “Joey G, we’re running short of fresh tomatoes. I want you to go to the store (it was 50 yards down the street) and get me a basket full. Tell the Beak to put it on my tab.” The Beak was Aldo

The Beak was Aldo Mangi. We all had big noses, but Aldo’s nose was something else. Hence, he got the nickname, The Beak.

Joey G said, “Pop, Aldo is way over there (Joey’s pointing at Aldo’s store). I’m in the middle of a game with Ray. Can it wait?”

Rocco wiped his pizza sauce hands on his apron and said, “You don’t get your bleep moving (only he didn’t say bleep) I”m gonna kick a field goal and you find yourself landing at the Beaks.”

“Okay, okay, I’m going. Can I take Ray?”

“I don’t care if you take Goldilocks, get me my tomatoes.”

Joey G turns to me, “Listen up. We’re going steal Aldo’s tomatoes from his garden in back of his store. He won’t miss anything.”

“I don’t know Joey G.”

“You chicken or something?”

That did it for me in those days. You could live with most things, but being called chicken was not one of the things you could live with. I agreed to go on the tomato heist.

We snuck into Larry Z’s garden. The problem is that Aldo is not in the store. He is in the garden. I said to Joey G, “We got to leave before Aldo sees us.”

Joey G doesn’t say anything. He grabs three ripe tomatoes and starts throwing them at Aldo. One of them catches Aldo smack on his clean white shirt. Joey G, throws the fourth one and takes off. Aldo runs after him only stopping after he spots me on the ground. He grabs hold of me and marches me home. He and my dad talked. They shook hands. I do not want to go into the details of tough love. Let’s say, I could no longer pal around with Joey G. Joey G was no longer welcome in the house.

Joey G was in juvenile detention when I graduated from high school. He got out when I enlisted in the army. He was in the state prison when I graduated from college. That’s the last I heard about him. The moral of the story is don’t toss ripe tomatoes at Aldo. Hey, that’s the best I could come up with on one cup of coffee.

I’m grateful for parents who made me walk a straight line. Grateful they knew who was a good influence on me and who was a bad influence on me. And, I am grateful after receiving tough love, I still felt loved.


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