Well-known Pa. bartender toasts 100th birthday
By KELSEY SHEA
PITTSBURGH (AP) – At midnight on April 7, 1933, the bell at the Allegheny library on Pittsburgh’s North Side struck. Prohibition ended, and Angelo Cammarata’s career began.
Cammarata, then 19, unloaded a case of Fort Pitt beer at his family’s business on Federal Street as the bell struck. He continued serving alcohol until 2009, which earned him the title of world’s longest-running bartender, according to the “Guinness Book of World Records.” Cammarata turned 100 on March 1.
He ran Cammarata’s Cafe in West View with his sons for 60 years on Center Avenue, where he moved the business from the North Side.
“I don’t miss the bar, but I do miss the customers,” Cammarata said.
He celebrated his milestone birthday with his four children and 16 grandchildren.
Cammarata, a World War II veteran, has been honored locally, nationally and even internationally. He has been interviewed on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and honored by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Cammarata grew up on the North Side as the son of Italian immigrants and was a football fan. He bought season tickets in 1933, the year the Pittsburgh Pirates, as they were called then, joined the National Football League.
He stopped by founder Art Rooney’s office to buy tickets for the first two games, but Rooney talked him into buying season tickets.
“(Rooney) said, ‘Why don’t you just buy season tickets,” Cammarata said. “I thought, ‘That’ll be $15 … I can swing that.'”
A longtime ticket holder, he still makes it to one or two games a year.
Cammarata served in the Navy for two years during World War II in both the Pacific and European theaters and was awarded a Victory Medal.
In 1954, he relocated his family’s bar to West View and moved upstairs with his wife, Marietta.
Cammarata said he monitored language and behavior in their bar, and women were welcome – unlike at some other bars in the 1950s.
“It was one of those bars where everybody knew everybody,” said Barbi Thomas, a Ross resident who went to Cammarata’s for more than 20 years and met her husband there. “It felt like home.”
She described Cammarata as “a pistol.”
When Cammarata was in his 90s, she and her husband watched him stand on a bar stool to change a light bulb.
“We were freaking out. We said, ‘Let one of your sons do it when they come in,'” said Thomas, 45. But he wouldn’t.
Cammarata said customers met and got engaged in the bar, and then their children came to drink when they grew up.
“It was certainly a staple in the West View community for a long time,” West View Mayor J.R. Henry said.
“It was a great neighborhood bar.”
Cammarata’s Cafe closed in 2009 when Cammarata’s son, John Cammarata, had a heart attack.
New owners opened Danny’s Bar & Grille at the location.
“A lot of our customers are personal friends.” said John Cammarata, 63, of Ross. “There was always a Cammarata in the bar.”
Angelo Cammarata retired when the bar closed and now lives in Ross.
“I miss my car, and I miss my wife,” said Cammarata, who no longer drives, “though I miss my wife more.”
She died in September 2010 at the age of 93 after 72 years of marriage.
Cammarata said being 100 is the “same as every day I’ve spent before, which is very good.”
“I’ve enjoyed every year,” he said.