Angelo Cammarata, the world's longest-serving bartender, readies for last call
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Angelo Cammarata, whom the Guinness Book of World Records recognized as the world's longest-serving bartender, is coming up on last call.
At least at Cammarata's Cafe, the West View watering hole where he's been pouring for most of his 77 years of tending bar.
The place, which he still helps his sons John and Frank run, has been sold, and the Cammaratas will be out of there within weeks when the new owners are approved by the state.
John Cammarata, who suffered a heart attack at a Steelers game about a year ago, said they sold it in great part because of his health. "I just turned 59. My brother is 60."
Their dad is 95, but still coming in every morning, doing the books, and tending bar for an hour or three. Most days he still has the Jim Beam bourbon and Coke that is his drink of choice.
"And one is enough," he says with his easy grin.
He laughs at the notion of other job offers; the owners of the new place, Danny's, asked him to stay on. But he's ready to finally actually retire, so he can take care of his wife, Marietta, at the Ross home where they moved a few years ago after decades of living above the bar.
"Closing after 77 years" read hand-lettered signs out front, offering customer-appreciation $1 drafts and $2 bottles right up to the day-long party (date to be determined) that will end it all.
"Camm," as people call him, started serving beer at his father's North Side grocery the moment Prohibition ended at midnight on April 7, 1933. The memory is as clear to him as the strike of the library clock that signaled it was time to start opening bottles of Fort Pitt. His immigrant father built a bar on that site in 1935 and Angelo kept working there, taking a break to serve in the Navy in World War II.
He relocated Cammarata's Cafe to West View in 1954, ran it but for a break when he sold it from 1971 to 1977 (during which time, he says, he still bartended on weekends).
After a campaign started by his son John, Guinness recognized him in 1999, making Mr. Cammarata a celebrity in beer circles locally and beyond. He's been written up in the Post-Gazette (from whence he got his "Nobody's poured 'em longer" label) and Playboy, taped for the "The Daily Show," and honored by everyone from Jim Beam, who put him in its Bartender Hall of Fame, to Budweiser, from the governor to, last year, town council.
The framed Guinness certificate hangs on a wall at the entrance. The record is "locked up," John says. "It's going to be hard to break."
Other plaques and clippings and photos cover the walls of the bar, at least for now. Mr. Cammarata doesn't plan to put them up at home. He's clearly proud of his long career -- "I'm not a mixologist, I'm a bartender," he says -- but in great part because it allowed him to raise four children, who've raised 14 children, who are raising grandchildren.
He believes the work did keep him young -- a combination of all that time on his feet behind the bar and "mixing" with the customers on the other side of it.
"It was a pleasure" -- he stretches the word -- because I met so many wonderful people."
First Published August 20, 2009 12:00 am