By Johnny Diaz
City & Shore PRIME
If you’ve ever dined at the former Café de Paris on Las Olas Boulevard, chances are you’ve heard Patrician Zanghi play.
For almost 30 years, she performed standards, classics and jazz there, while patrons sat around her piano and sang along. Where is she now that the restaurant has closed?
Zanghi, 74, continues to tickle the ivories, with weekend gigs at two Fort Lauderdale eateries: the Riverside Hotel on Saturday nights and at Serafina Trattoria Italiana on Sunday evenings.
We recently caught up with the Oakland Park resident and asked her about her long musical career, her move from her native Rhode Island, and her performances with her late concert pianist father, Anthony Zanghi.
Q: When did you start playing?
A: My father gave me lessons when I was 7. He was a great teacher because he played all over the world. I never wanted to practice, like most kids. After he heard me, he gave up. He got my music and tore it up and threw it in the garbage. My mother was so furious when that happened. So she went into the garbage, took the music out, taped it all, and locked me in a room every day for hours, so I would practice[laughs].
And after two years, my father heard me play. He would give me a lesson, but he never heard me play. I became very, very good, and then he started to focus in on the lessons and listen to me and teach me.
Q: When did you start playing professionally?
A: After my divorce in 1977, I had to get a job. I tried working in stores as a salesperson. That, my God, was terrible. I thought I should stick to the piano. That’s when I started working professionally, playing hotels and restaurants, and I started to get a big following, too. My father and I had piano recitals at Brown University. We had two 9-foot grand pianos, Steinways, back to back. We would do dueling pianos at Brown and the Rhode Island School of Design … I really had the best jobs in Rhode Island.
Q: When did you move to South Florida?
A: I was playing at the Viking hotel [in Newport, R.I.]. They had a blizzard. It was 1 a.m. and my car was sliding side to side on the Newport bridge. I thought my car would go off the bridge. I said: If I ever get off this bridge, I will never spend another winter in Rhode Island because I was so petrified. I took my parents with me because I didn’t want to leave them alone.
In 1989, I came out here. From the day I came out here, I always worked. I have never gone without working. I will work until I can’t. I do enjoy it. It gives you life.
Q: How long did you play at Café de Paris?
A: I started there in 1990. That was on a handshake … It was like $75 a night. I always made a lot of tips because I always played to the people. I play in Italian. I sing in Italian. I play in French. I sing in French.
Q: You’re also a piano teacher?
A: I teach six days a week. I have two women [clients], and the rest of them are all men. Some of them are in their 80s. It goes to show you, it’s never too late. You can still learn. I have a lot of guys in their 40s, lawyers, real estate people. They are all professional, and they always wanted to play the piano and thought they couldn’t.
Q: How do you select the music you play at appearances?
A: At the Riverside Hotel, I start out with ballads. As the room starts to fill up, I play all requests. Then I play all the show tunes: Phantom of the Opera, My Fair Lady, Les Misérables. I do them all. Sometimes, I have professional singers come in and they sing … I always play the room. I play from rock to Bach — and that covers it all. I don’t do Lady Gaga … but I might one day.”