Best Open-Mic Night—Without the Mic (2008)

Caffé Taci

First, what Caffé Taci is not: It's not the perfect place for a romantic Italian dinner date. It's too loud, for one thing, and although plenty of love songs get sung, they're interspersed with the occasional mad scene or murder/suicide in Italian. The waiters don't sing, but almost everyone joins in for the toreador chorus from Carmen. It's not staid or stuffy—most of the singers are students at Juilliard and the Manhattan School of Music, along with the occasional graduate slumming it in between professional engagements. It's not the brainchild of a Metropolitan Opera baritone; Leopoldo Mucci was a non-singing extra. (Real Met stars do drop by, though.) There's no chatty emcee, only a silent, frail-looking accompanist, a diminutive Russian widow whose spine is shaped like a question mark. No bar brawls, but heated discussions about the relative merits of Verdi versus Wagner are not unheard of. That's when Don Leopoldo shushes everyone, because that's what Taci is: Taci means "quiet" in Italian.


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