Care for a side of show tunes with that order of spaghetti?
If you’re dining at Carlucci’s in Fort Lauderdale, waiter James Williams likely will dish up Rodgers & Hammerstein numbers along with plates of marinara.
The singing server is a classically trained tenor who sang with the New World School of the Arts opera ensemble in Miami about 10 years ago. Soon after he hands out menus, he bursts into song to the delight of customers dining at the eatery, which features specialties from southern and northern Italy.
“As soon as I start to sing, the whole restaurant goes into a hush,” says Williams, 50, of Fort Lauderdale. “After I’m done, it’s wild applause, then back to eating garlic rolls and pasta e fagioli.”
Born in Miami Beach, Williams has been waiting tables and singing a capella at the restaurant for about four years. Before that, he says, he was belting ’em out from behind the prepared foods counter at Whole Foods Market in Plantation.
“This is fantastic. It’s like Broadway right here in South Florida,” says Lou Valido, 61, of Boca Raton, in between bites of pizza. “His voice is so good. I was surprised at first. The pizza’s great, they use real mushrooms and it comes with a singing waiter. What a bargain!”
Williams’ repertoire ranges from On the Street Where You Live from the musical My Fair Lady to Una furtiva lagrima from the Donizetti opera L’elisir d’amore (The Elixir of Love).
“The regular customers all ask me to sing to them. It’s my passion and it brightens up the atmosphere. I love being a waiter, too, because I get to meet all kinds of people.
“It makes the dining experience memorable,” Williams says. “I sing at every job I’ve ever had.”
Williams says he has sung professionally and also has a bachelor’s degree in music with a specialty in vocal performances from Barry University in Miami Shores.
“I didn’t know he was a singer. He surprised me,” says Rosario Troia, Carlucci’s owner.
The Sicilian native says he has owned the restaurant for 20 years. “I hired him because he was a good, experienced server. The singing is the cherry on top. It keeps them coming in.”
Williams says he started singing soon after he was hired.
“The staff was stunned. The customers were ecstatic. They all broke into applause,” he recalls.
Before long, Williams was singing and serving a few times during dinner shifts. Regular customers began requesting his service and songs.
Williams is thinking of trying out for NBC’s The Voice and is hoping to do professional voiceovers. But for now, he’s happy singing and serving.
What’s his favorite menu item?
“There are quite a few, but I favor the angel hair pomodoro,” he says. “It’s so delicious. Amarilla from Paris of Hellen goes great with that dish.”
Carlucci’s Italian Ristorante is at 6351 N. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale; 954-493-8600.