A short-lived, but notable downriver venue, Nunzio’s in Lincoln Park was a disco that would host both Bookie’s era acts such as R.U.R. as well as hardcore bands from the Freezer Theatre scene such Negative Approach.
The venue been a “shot & beer” type bar until the owner’s son, Nunzio Fresta – a gay man, decided to start adding in disco and, later, live music. A small bar, which could only hit about 150 people, was able to become a draw bringing in national acts as well such as Johnny Thunders (formerly of The New York Dolls) and Cheetah Chrome (Dead Boys).
The booker of live music at Nunzio’s during the era was Chato Chavez. He had no previous experience in booking clubs before Nunzio’s. Chavez said he just happened to go to Nunzio’s one night and a friend of his, “Eddie” Burgoyne of R.U.R., asked him to help book the band book the place since it was looking for a new venue.
The venue didn’t last long because by late 1980/early 1981, Chavez said, Fresta decided he wanted to move to Chicago. When Fresta left for Chicago his family took over the bar again but had no interest in music and dealing with the bands. So, it returned to “shot and beer” which it has been since then under different names and ownership. Upon his arrival in Chicago, Fresta opened several places in the early 1980s before doing well with an Italian place called Angelina Ristorante in 1988 which he ran until he died at the age of 38 in 1993. As of 2018, Angelina Ristorante is still open in Chicago.
Trivia: Nunzio’s is name checked, along with Bookie’s and Menjo’s, in The Meatmen’s song “Tooling for Anus” on their “We’re the Meatmen And You Suck!” album released in 1983.
2 thoughts on “Nunzio’s”
All through 1980 Nunzio’s was home base for RUR. RUR built the stage so it was large enough to support a band, RUR put the lights in, and Bill put his PA in. Chato became RUR’s manager and met Bob Garcia at Bookies when they played with Squeeze and gave him the demo tape that got A&M interested in the band. RUR created the Wed. night surprise, and it was always packed with the bands friends as they all lived in the neighborhood. When Nunzio’s was full it held about 120 people. Nunzio’s had the prettiest girls in town working there. So many stories to tell about the stuff that happened there during 1980, but suffice it to say it was the most fun place in Detroit at that time. No bar owner was ever as close to and supportive of Detroit bands as Nunzio Fresta because he never took sides or held favorites, so everybody was treated royally there.
I was one of those girls that worked at Nunzio’s. First, in the beginning as a waitress until I had a problem with four brutes at a table ordering a pitcher of beer and then smacking me on the behind. I told them, do not do that again, then when I came to deliver the pitcher the one that touched me said: what is that, we did not order a pitcher of beer then all four started laughing loudly. I said, oh yes you did order a pitcher of beer and here it is, pouring it on top of his big head then running fast out the frontdoor down Southfield Rd., as I was being chased by that moron. He was overweight and easy to outrun. I hid inside a laundry mat for awhile thinking Nunzio for sure would fire me. He was my friend and I caused a scene. I used a pay phone to call the club, Nunzio answered the phone, asking me to come there in 15 minutes, using the back alley entrance. He sounded calm and reassured me the gang of 4 had left the club. Nunzio opened the backdoor, took me inside his office and he was smiling at me, whew! He said, I heard you took care of their order, good going, those guys are banned from my club and you are promoted to behind the bar. We need that counter space in between you and the menacing types. Nunzio was such a sweet gentle soul that left us way to early. RIP. Miss that whole crew: Natalie, Twig same RIP,Diane, Nancy, Beth, Keith, Chato, David, and dear Nunzio.
We were all lucky to have known him.
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