In a cozy corner of Kingfly Spirits in the Strip District, there’s a Steinway baby grand piano — not a common sight in a distillery, even one that hosts regular jazz sessions. But as Mark Willson, who co-owns Kingfly with his wife Christina French, notes, “This piano has a story to tell.”
It was originally owned by Willson’s uncle, Bobby Cardillo, a longtime fixture on the local jazz scene who opened Cardillo’s Club Cafe (now Club Cafe) with his son Harry in 1988. When Bobby died in 2019, Harry, also a well-known local pianist, inherited his piano.
When Harry’s cousin opened Kingfly that same year, he lent the piano to the distillery.
But more than 50 years of bending over a piano takes its toll, and earlier this year, Cardillo underwent spinal surgery. An infection followed and recovery has been long and complicated.
In an effort to help cover his massive medical bills, Cardillo asked the Kingfly owners to buy the piano, which they did.
“He really wanted to keep it in the family,” Willson says.
In a post on the GoFundMe page set up for Cardillo, Harry writes that he hopes to get back to playing by the fall. That may be optimistic, but “if he gets his butt back in the seat, we’ll definitely have a Harry Night,” French says.
Update: Harry Night is happening. Cardillo will visit Kingfly on Thursday, Oct. 5, from 7 to 10 p.m. to play his beloved Steinway. He’ll be joined by a trio; friends and students will sit in as well. The night will be a fundraiser for Cardillo as he continues to recover.
Two Frays and its Garfield neighbors
Since opening in 2021, Two Frays Brewery in Garfield has made a commitment to the community a core part of its identity.
Two Frays offers monthly Crafts and Crafts events presented by its neighbor Assemble and occasional Thinkers and Drinkers mini-seminars. Earlier this year, Dr. Natalie Gentile, founder of Rebel Wellness, presented a talk on nutrition. And Mike Onofray, Two Frays co-owner and brewer, discussed a favorite topic: water.
The latest edition of Thinkers and Drinkers is set for Tuesday, Sept. 26. Debbie Leuchter Stueber, a volunteer with the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh, will share the story of her parents, Edith and Kurt Leuchter (still alive in their 90s) and their experiences as Jewish children in hiding in Nazi-occupied France.
Check the Two Frays Instagram for more details.
Sharpsburg distillery opening
The original opening date was supposed to be in June, but the usual renovations and red tape got in the way. Now, Love, Katie Distilling in Sharpsburg has finally opened its doors.
What may be the first LGBTQ-owned distillery in Pennsylvania has been a labor of love for owner/distiller Katie Sirianni — appropriately, because love is the idea behind it.
“The goal is to simplify showing love,” says Sirianni. “It’s an experience to share with someone you love.”
Keeping with the theme, a love letter to her girlfriend, Jen, is printed on the back of each bottle of her gin and vodka. She plans to expand to distilling whiskey and eventually, tequila.
The distillery’s tasting room is, in a word, “classy,” Sirianni says. Black and white photos of legendary divas such as Billie Holiday and Marilyn Monroe line the walls. The space includes a small bar, tables for two or four patrons, and cozy conversation areas.
Background music will echo the mid-century vibe, with Frank Sinatra, Holiday, and the like on the soundtrack.
Sirianni is starting with bottle sales and creative cocktails. Patrons can have food delivered from neighboring Yosteria, the Italian restaurant and wine bar, or bring their own.
Check Love, Katie’s Instagram for details.
Windy Bridges makes connections
Marcus Wyatt, the founder of Windy Bridges Brew, had a very good Barrel and Flow experience, despite the stormy weather.
His two beers — a tropical stout made with Tröegs Brewing, and a hazy IPA made in collaboration with Pittsburgh’s own Trace Brewing and Two Locals Brewing Co. of Philadelphia — were well received. The tropical stout, in particular, surprised festival-goers.
“The concept of stout is dark, heavy roasted malt, but this was very light and easy drinking,” Wyatt says. “To physically see the shock on people’s faces when they took a drink was a satisfying feeling.”
Wyatt will be serving a sour watermelon ale and a golden ale at the Beaver County Crafts and Drafts Festival on Sept. 16, and he’s looking forward to participating in the Steel City Big Pour on Oct. 7.
He says he has a few leads on a permanent location for Windy Bridges, but nothing’s for sure yet.
What else is on tap
Caliente Pizza & Draft House is going all in on its Dough Daddy beers. Hazy Dough Dazy has been available at the area’s seven Caliente locations for a few months now, with Crust Crusher Double IPA, Guava Grenade IPA and Mango Daddy wheat beer also available. In late September or early October, Caliente will release its first pumpkin ale, according to owner Nick Bogacz. Strange Roots Experimental Ales does the brewing in collaboration with Caliente staff members.
Necromancer Brewing founder Ben Butler says he is still hoping to open Midnight Whistler Pub, Necromancer’s Greenfield offshoot, by the end of September. Mindy Heisler and Hart Johnson, who once handled the food and beer offerings at Piper’s Pub’s before starting Mindy’s Take and Bake, will be managing Midnight Whistler. Expect a British-inspired food menu, not surprisingly, along with American pub bites. In addition to Necromancer, other Pennsylvania craft beers will be showcased on guest taps, Butler says.