The pandemic has been devastating to musicians who depend on performances to make a living.
Thankfully, Frankie’s Old World Italian Bakery and Café has stepped in to help.
Frankie Mamone is the founder of the Cathedral City restaurant. He and his team are behind Project Bread for Musicians, an initiative in which Mamone gives bread to those who donate gift cards and money to local musicians. Learn more at www.facebook.com/FrankiesOldWorldBiscotti.
“Project Bread for Musicians was an idea from Hope Diamond, our jazz singer,” Mamone said during recent phone interview. “She asked if we would work together with her on it for musicians who are out of work. She asked us to provide a loaf of bread when somebody brings in a gift card for an artist. Also, when an artist comes in and says, ‘I need some help; I need a meal. I’m hungry,’ we give them a gift card and a loaf of bread. If there’s cash, we give some cash, too. It’s helped so many people. It’s happening every day.”
Project Bread also features a live-performance aspect: Musicians come into the restaurant and do a five-song set that’s broadcast over Facebook Live at 5 p.m. every Wednesday through Saturday. The archived performances can be watched via the aforementioned Facebook page.
“There’s no audience at all,” Mamone said. “There’s a cameraman, the musician/singer—and that’s it. Since we’ve been doing this, all these wonderful musicians have come up and wanted to support us. One guy named Danny Gutierrez really needed a gift card for him and his buddy who play together. I said yes, and he said, ‘But I want to give back, and I want to do a Live at Five. I thought that was great.”
Mamone is a performer himself, so realized the need as soon as the restrictions began last March.
“We started right away,” Mamone said. “I’m a performer myself, and I was performing on March 13 in Los Angeles doing my Jerry Vale tribute show. That was the end of everything; everything was canceled as of then. We put our heads together on March 14, and we started doing it then. We had our initial meeting on the 14th to find out how we can continue to help people.”
The amazing work Mamone and his crew have done has not gone unnoticed. When KESQ News Channel 3 featured Frankie’s in its Good Deed Spotlight segment, Rep. Dr. Raul Ruiz gave Frankie’s a social-media shoutout.
“If somebody comes in and they’re hungry, we’re gonna feed them; that’s what we do,” Mamone said. “We don’t want to see anybody hungry. If they’re not a musician, too bad—we’re going to give them something anyway. Our hearts are in the right place, and we’re trying to just uplift our musicians who are out of work and who have been so loyal to us and have performed for us and been diligent with us. We want to give back and say, ‘You’re not forgotten.’
“There’s nobody else. None of these other clubs are doing anything for musicians. It’s so sad, because when they start up again, they’re going to be calling them first thing: ‘Oh, we need you. We need you.’ One hand washes the other, and it’s constantly that way. It’s always helping the next guy out. My car just broke down. Somebody came right over with a battery and started it for me. That’s the kind of karma we get.”
Mamone is particularly proud of the reach of the shows, and encouraged everyone to tune in.
“It’s only 20 minutes out of your day, but we’re reaching an audience of 5,000 people that are uplifted by this free little concert every day,” said Mamone. “They don’t have to contribute to watch. It’s free. They’re helping out just by tuning in and leaving supporting and encouraging comments that keep us going.”
Frankie’s Italian Bakery intends to continue helping artists through the pandemic—no matter how long it takes.
“We’ll continue with it as long as musicians need us to do it,” Mamone said. “I don’t know any timeline, but we’re just going to be there every day for them, for anything they need. If they need groceries, we’ll get a bunch of groceries and put them in a box and give it to them. There’s one singer who’s got four kids. Her and her husband both are performers, so those kinds of people really need help.”
Want to help out? “If people want to contribute, they can send anything to Frankie’s Italian Bakery in the mail. It’ll go right to the musician,” Mamone said. “They get free bread if they bring it in person, and we’ve got the most awesome bread in the whole valley.”
Frankie’s Old World Italian Bakery is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday, at 68845 Perez Road #H30, in Cathedral City. Frankie’s Live at 5 shows take place via Facebook Live at 5 p.m., every Wednesday through Saturday. For more information, call 760-770-1300, or visit www.facebook.com/FrankiesOldWorldBiscotti.