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Former Big Cities owner brings the blues to Adriatic Café

June 22, 2011

*  First show features guitar man Pistol Pete Thursday, June 23

By Jim Hagerty
Online Editor

For the first time in nearly 30 years, Nino Gardona will introduce a blues act on a different stage Thursday, June 23.

Gardona, who turned Big Cities Lounge into a premier blues club in 1984, is bringing his act to Adriatic Café & Bar.

As Adriatic’s new manager, Gardona will continue the trend he set at Big Cities, drawing the top blues acts in the world, and an array of local and regional talent.

Guitar man Pistol Pete, who helped put Big Cities on the map, will take the stage Thursday night at 9 p.m.

“We are excited to hear how a full band sounds in here,” Gardona, who has brought the likes of Maynard Ferguson, Magic Slim and Chris Cain to Rockford, said.

Big Cities customers recall few things changed in 27 years. Duct tape held the original carpet in place. The bar, stage, jukebox and a couple dozen tables and chairs occupied most of the space at 905 E. State St. A dart board and video poker machine marked the only other entertainment in the small room. Nino didn’t accept credit cards, and an ATM, at times, was out of cash. Big Cities was all about the music.

With several rooms, the Adriatic Café & Bar seats more than 100 around the stage. A pool table, boxing game, dart board, table tennis room and HD TVs complement the space, giving it a true nightclub feel.

“It’s definitely bigger,” Gardona said.

At 327 W. Jefferson St., downtown, the Adriatic Café & Bar is the former location of Jacks or Better Supper Club and the Times Lounge, which Sam Salamone owned from 1988 to 2006 after 30 years in busines across the street. Salamone vowed to be the first customer at Adriatic. However, he passed away two months before it opened.

Admission for Thursday’s show is free.

From the June 22-28 issue

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