None of it makes much sense. At Tony Ferraro’s Burgers & Italian Bistro, hamburgers are served alongside mounds of pasta and marinara sauce.
Kitschy beaded curtains and painted Italian landscapes attempt to conceal the old Steer Inn’s fast food roots.
And there’s live music. But perhaps not the kind you’re thinking of. Adriano Ferraro — the self-proclaimed “Singing Server” — works the room, crooning “L is for the way you look at me when…” An old woman with her arm in a sling interrupts him with a bear hug and long kisses on the cheek. He serves the crowd lemon tart before returning to his keyboard and fake candles in the corner, finishing off the song in a Marilyn Monroe whisper.
This one-man dinner theater claims to be the only singing server in the United States who can sing, take your order, take your payment and serve your food at the same time. And he does.
“While trying to make it as a singer, I’ve always been a food server to pay my bills,” Ferraro says. “I randomly started singing to people on their birthdays and anniversaries, and it really unfolded from there.”
“He’s so inspirational,” says Carol Gieson. “If you’ve had a really stressful day, after you hear him sing you’re guaranteed to just feel peaceful. He touches a lot of hearts.”
Gieson is one of many followers who first heard Ferraro sing at Ferraro’s Restaurant in Spokane Valley. She fell in love with his music and now sits at his merchandise table, selling CDs and handing out press releases that read, “Adriano Ferraro is the most amazing, unique person you will ever meet.”
But it’s not all swoons and sighs for the Singing Server. While Ferraro knocks them dead at the family’s fast-food bistro in Hillyard (he is the son of the owner there), he faces a tougher crowd at his uncle’s restaurant, Ferraro’s, in the Valley. Here, the spotlight is less bright, and his role is more waiter than performer.
During a recent dinner service at the Valley restaurant, he struts past the booths and approaches a table of six. Adjusting his microphone headset, he bursts into “That’s Amore” (his uncle’s favorite song) — while taking their orders, filling their water and pouring their wine. He doesn’t miss a beat, and he’s smiling like a Miss America contestant the entire time.
But he’s quieter here, and his Broadway voice — even amplified — gets lost in the buzz of the restaurant. Sometimes, he looks and sounds like he’s simply singing aloud to himself to pass the time as he works. There’s no clapping at the end of each song — just the clanking of dishes in the kitchen.
Meanwhile, the rest of the young waitstaff orbits around him, hardly noticing the strange phenomenon that occurs here five nights a week.
It’s only when he approaches an unsuspecting table that heads turn, children giggle and old women are thrown into a frenzy over the charming young waiter who serenades them.
Still, Ferraro’s eyes are set on higher prizes. He hopes that his Feb. 7 audition with America’s Got Talent will thrust him into the spotlight. After he sent the show a copy of a TV news feature about his role at the restaurant this past year, producers called him back to make sure he’ll be there for the audition.
“Things are growing so much that I can see it’s going somewhere huge,” he says. “Knowing that gets me up performing every day. I know it’s worth the hard work.”
And then he’s off — breadbasket in hand, ready to woo another lady with old Italian classics.